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What are the different types of radioactive decay?

There are three main types of radioactive decay: alpha, beta and gamma.

Alpha decay occurs when an atomic nucleus emits an alpha particle, which is composed of two protons and two neutrons. This causes the atomic number to decrease by two and the mass number to decrease by four.

Beta decay occurs when a neutron in the nucleus decays into a proton and an electron, which is then emitted from the nucleus. This causes the atomic number to increase by one and the mass number to remain the same.

Gamma decay occurs when a nucleus in an excited state releases energy in the form of a gamma ray. This does not change the atomic or mass number of the nucleus.

There are also other types of radioactive decay, such as positron emission and electron capture, but these are less common. The type of decay that occurs depends on the stability of the nucleus and the balance between the strong nuclear force and the electromagnetic force. Understanding the different types of radioactive decay is important in fields such as nuclear physics, medicine and environmental science.

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