Video: Understanding Gamma Radiation

When an atomic nucleus emits a gamma ray, by how much does the charge of the nucleus change?

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Video Transcript

When an atomic nucleus emits a gamma ray, by how much does the charge of the nucleus change?

Alright, so we say we have here an atomic nucleus. And we’re told this nucleus emits what’s called a gamma ray. A gamma ray is high energy electromagnetic radiation. Considering the electromagnetic spectrum, if we’re looking at visible light and then we go on to ultraviolet and then into X-rays, then even beyond X-rays, we find gamma rays. So gamma rays have very high energy. And at the same time, we can describe them as light like anything else on the electromagnetic spectrum.

One of the qualities of light is that it has no mass to it. It also is electrically neutral. It has no charge. So in this question, when we ask how much the emission of a gamma ray affects the charge of the nucleus, we know that this emission leaves it unchanged.

There is zero change to the nuclear charge because a gamma ray has no charge itself.

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