Because it is electromagnetic radiation, gamma photons have no mass and no electrical charge, and they travel at the speed of light (3.108 m.s-1), being able to cover hundreds to thousands of meters in air before spending their energy.
Gamma-rays have the smargies above 100 keV). Gamma radiation is very penetrating, relative to alpha and beta particles, and it can easily do damage to a person’s body, especially if it ionizes atoms in chains of DNA, which can lead to tumors, cancer, and genetic damage.
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Natural sources of gamma rays on Earth include gamma decay from naturally occurring radioisotopes, and secondary radiation from atmospheric interactions with cosmic ray particles. There are also a few terrestrial natural sources that produce gamma rays that are not of nuclear origin, such as lightning strikes and terrestrial gamma-ray flashes.
Gamma rays can also be produced by a number of astronomical processes, such as the mechanisms of Bremsstrahlung, Inverse Compton Scattering and Synchrotron radiation, which involve very high-energy electrons. The release of energy as gamma radiation (secondary gamma rays) occurs when these electrons, which are traveling in high speed, approach atoms and interact with the negative force of their electrons, being slowed or completely stopped.
Application in medicine[ edit | edit source]
Because they are ionizing radiation, gamma rays can kill living cells. Thus, they are used to treat malignant tumors by means of radiotherapy. For treatment deep within the body, high energy photons are sent to reach merely the target tumor without affecting the surrounding tissue. Though x-rays are also ionizing radiation, because of the lower energy compared to gamma rays, they may fail to reach sufficiently deep into the body and may cause instead damage to the surrounding tissues that absorbed them. They can also be used to do incisions in surgery.
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