What are the Characteristics of Radiation?

Radiation is energy that is emitted from a source and travels through space at the speed of light. It has an electric field and a magnetic field associated with it, and has properties similar to those of waves. This energy can be released in the form of high-speed rays or particles, and is known as ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation has so much energy that it can expel electrons from atoms, a process known as ionization. It can affect atoms in living things, posing a health risk by damaging tissue and DNA. Ionizing radiation comes from X-ray machines, cosmic particles from outer space, and radioactive elements. Radioactive elements emit ionizing radiation as their atoms undergo radioactive decay. This spontaneous emission is what we call radiation. The characteristic radiation arises from the electronic transition in an excited atom. Excitation is the removal of an electron from an inner shell, which requires energy that can be provided by fast electrons (such as in an X-ray tube or in a scanning electron microscope). Atoms are made up of several parts; the nucleus contains tiny particles called protons and neutrons, and the outer shell of the atom contains other particles called electrons. The nucleus carries a positive electrical charge, while electrons carry a negative electrical charge. These forces within the atom work toward a strong and stable equilibrium by removing excess atomic energy (radioactivity). Unstable atoms are said to be radioactive. To achieve stability, these atoms emit or emit excess energy or mass. The types of radiation are electromagnetic (such as light) and particulate (i.e., gamma radiation and x-rays are examples of electromagnetic radiation). Gamma radiation originates in the nucleus, while X-rays come from the electronic part of the atom. Beta and alpha radiation are examples of particle radiation that can be monitored with radiation detection badges.

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