Safeguarding genome integrity through extraordinary DNA repair

(PhysOrg.com) -- DNA is under constant attack, from internal factors like free radicals and external ones like ionizing radiation. About 10 double-strand breaks – the kind that snap both backbones of the double helix ...

Drilling Down into Mars

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Phoenix lander revealed water ice mere inches beneath the martian surface, and chemical evidence from the landing site strongly hints that the region is habitable. But learning whether there is life ...

Game-changing nanodiamond discovery for MRI

A Northwestern University study shows that coupling a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agent to a nanodiamond results in dramatically enhanced signal intensity and thus vivid image contrast.

Cold molecular clouds as cosmic ray detectors

The ionization of the neutral gas in an interstellar molecular cloud plays a key role in the cloud's evolution, helping to regulate the heating and cooling processes, the chemistry and molecule formation, and coupling the ...

New CubeSat will observe the remnants of massive supernovas

Scientists at CU Boulder are developing a satellite about the size of a toaster oven to explore one of the cosmos' most fundamental mysteries: How did radiation from stars punch its way out of the first galaxies to fundamentally ...

What ionized the universe?

The sparsely distributed hot gas that exists in the space between galaxies, the intergalactic medium, is ionized. The question is, how? Astronomers know that once the early universe expanded and cooled enough, hydrogen (its ...

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Ionizing radiation

Ionizing radiation consists of subatomic particles or electromagnetic waves that are energetic enough to detach electrons from atoms or molecules, ionizing them. The occurrence of ionization depends on the energy of the impinging individual particles or waves, and not on their number. An intense flood of particles or waves will not cause ionization if these particles or waves do not carry enough energy to be ionizing. Roughly speaking, particles or photons with energies above a few electron volts (eV) are ionizing.

Examples of ionizing particles are energetic alpha particles, beta particles, and neutrons. The ability of electromagnetic waves (photons) to ionize an atom or molecule depends on their wavelength. Radiation on the short wavelength end of the electromagnetic spectrum - ultraviolet, x-rays, and gamma rays - is ionizing.

Ionizing radiation comes from radioactive materials, x-ray tubes, particle accelerators, and is present in the environment. It is invisible and undetectable by human senses, so instruments such as geiger counters are required to detect its presence. It has many practical uses in medicine, research, construction, and other areas, but presents a health hazard if used improperly. Exposure to radiation causes microscopic damage to living tissue, resulting in skin burns, radiation sickness and death at high doses and cancer, tumors and genetic damage at low doses.

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