Muon

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The muon (from the Greek letter mu (μ) used to represent it) is an elementary particle similar to the electron, with a negative electric charge and a spin of ½. Together with the electron, the tau, and the three neutrinos, it is classified as a lepton. It is an unstable subatomic particle with the second longest mean lifetime (2.2 µs), exceeded only by that of the free neutron (~15 minutes). Like all elementary particles, the muon has a corresponding antiparticle of opposite charge but equal mass and spin: the antimuon (also called a positive muon). Muons are denoted by μ
and antimuons by μ+
. Muons were previously called mu mesons, but are not classified as mesons by modern particle physicists (see History).

Muons have a mass of 105.7 MeV/c2, which is about 200 times the mass of an electron. Since the muon's interactions are very similar to those of the electron, a muon can be thought of as a much heavier version of the electron. Due to their greater mass, muons are not as sharply accelerated when they encounter electromagnetic fields, and do not emit as much bremsstrahlung radiation. Thus muons of a given energy penetrate matter far more deeply than electrons, since the deceleration of electrons and muons is primarily due to energy loss by this mechanism. So-called "secondary muons", generated by cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere, can penetrate to the Earth's surface and into deep mines.

As with the case of the other charged leptons, the muon has an associated muon neutrino. Muon neutrinos are denoted by ν
μ
.

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