Radiohalo

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Radiohalos or pleochroic halos are microscopic, spherical shells of discolouration within minerals such as biotite that occur in granite and other igneous rocks. The shells are zones of radiation damage caused by the inclusion of minute radioactive crystals within the host crystal structure. The inclusions are typically zircon, apatite, or titanite which can accommodate uranium or thorium within their crystal structures. (Faure 1986) The most widely accepted explanation is that the discolouration is caused by alpha particles emitted by the nuclei; the radius of the concentric shells are proportional to the particle's energy (Henderson & Bateson 1934). The phenomenon of radiohalos has been known to geologists since the early part of the 20th century, but wider interest was prompted by the claims of creationist Robert V. Gentry that radiohalos in biotite are evidence for a young earth (Gentry 1992). These claims are rejected by the scientific community as an example of creationist pseudoscience (Wakefield 1988).

Contents

Production

Uranium-238 follows a sequence of decay through thorium, radium, radon, polonium, and lead. These are the alpha-emitting isotopes in the sequence. (Beta particles cannot form distinct rings.[citation needed])

The final characteristics of the radiohalo depends upon the initial isotope, and the size of each ring of a radiohalo is dependent upon the alpha decay energy. A radiohalo formed from U-238 has theoretically eight concentric rings, with five actually distinguishable under a lighted microscope, while a radiohalo formed from polonium has only one, two, or three rings depending on which isotope is the starting material.[citation needed] In U-238 haloes, U-234, and Ra-226 rings coincide with the Th-230 to form one ring; Ra-222 and Po-210 rings also coincide to form one ring. These rings are indistinguishable from one another under a lighted microscope (Pal 2004), but Ra-222 and Po-210 rings can be distinguished by other means (Gentry 1974).

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