Argon found in air of ancient atmosphere

On the massive sheets of ice that stretch across Greenland and Antarctica, the temperature is so low that not even the summer sun can melt the snow deposited onto them. As the snow accumulates without melting and settles ...

Image: Plasma propulsion for small satellites

A test firing of Europe's Helicon Plasma Thruster, developed with ESA by SENER and the Universidad Carlos III's Plasma & Space Propulsion Team (EP2-UC3M) in Spain. This compact, electrodeless and low voltage design is ideal ...

A (much) earlier birth date for tectonic plates

Yale geophysicists reported that Earth's ever-shifting, underground network of tectonic plates was firmly in place more than 4 billion years ago—at least a billion years earlier than scientists generally thought.

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Argon

Argon  /ˈɑrɡɒn/ is a chemical element represented by the symbol Ar. Argon has atomic number 18 and is the third element in group 18 of the periodic table (noble gases). Argon is the third most common gas in the Earth's atmosphere, at 0.93%, making it more common than carbon dioxide. Nearly all of this argon is radiogenic argon-40 derived from the decay of potassium-40 in the Earth's crust. In the universe, argon-36 is by far the most common argon isotope, being the preferred argon isotope produced by stellar nucleosynthesis in supernovas.

The name "argon" is derived from the Greek word αργον meaning "lazy" or "the inactive one", a reference to the fact that the element undergoes almost no chemical reactions. The complete octet (eight electrons) in the outer atomic shell makes argon stable and resistant to bonding with other elements. Its triple point temperature of 83.8058 K is a defining fixed point in the International Temperature Scale of 1990.

Argon is produced industrially by the fractional distillation of liquid air. Argon is mostly used as an inert shielding gas in welding and other high-temperature industrial processes where ordinarily non-reactive substances become reactive; for example, an argon atmosphere is used in graphite electric furnaces to prevent the graphite from burning. Argon gas also has uses in incandescent and fluorescent lighting, and other types of gas discharge tubes. Argon makes a distinctive blue-green gas laser.

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