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An extinct radionuclide is one that scientists believe was formed by primordial processes, such as stellar nucleogenesis in the supernova(s) that contributed radioisotopes to the early solar system, about 4.6 billion years ago. Generally, radioisotopes with a decay half-life shorter than about 100 million years are not found in nature, except for those generated continuously by a natural process, such as cosmic rays, or a decay chain of much longer lived isotopes, such as uranium or thorium. Other short-lived isotopes are thus seen only as extinct radionuclides, whose former existence is inferred now from a superabundance of their stable decay products.
Examples of extinct radionuclides include iodine-129 (the first to be noted in 1960, and inferred from excess xenon-129 concentrations in meteorites, in the xenon-iodine dating system), aluminium-26 (also inferred from extra magnesium-26 found in meteorites), and iron-60.
List of extinct radionuclides
A partial list of radionuclides not found in nature, but for which decay products exist:
Notable isotopes with shorter lives still being produced on Earth include:
- Manganese-53 and beryllium-10 are produced by cosmic ray spallation on dust in the upper atmosphere.
- Uranium-236 is produced in uranium ores by neutrons from other radioactives, and from the decay chain of trace primordial plutonium-244.
- Iodine-129 is produced from tellurium-130 by cosmic-ray muons and from cosmic ray spallation of stable xenon isotopes in the atmosphere.
Radioactives with half-lives shorter than one million years are also produced: for example, carbon-14 by cosmic ray production in the atmosphere (half-life 5730 years).
- Radiometric dating
- List of nuclides which includes a listing for radionuclides in order of half life