Christening ceremony at the GSI: Chemical Element 112 is named Copernicium

16-Jul-2010 - Germany

On Monday July 12, 2010, the chemical element discovered at GSI was christened “copernicium”. This symbolic christening celebrated the element's eternal entry into the periodic table of elements. copernicium is 277 times heavier than hydrogen and the heaviest element officially recognized in the periodic table. Its name honors the great astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543).

Element 112 was discovered by an international team of scientists headed by professor Sigurd Hofmann at GSI. The new element has officially carried the name copernicium and the symbol “Cn” since February 19, 2010. Naming the element after scientist Nicolaus Copernicus follows the longstanding tradition of choosing an accomplished scientist as eponym. Copernicus’ work in astronomy is the basis of our modern world view, which states that the Sun is the center of our solar system with the Earth and all the other planets circling around it.

On February 9, 1996, Sigurd Hofmann and his team produced an atom of the element copernicium for the first time. Using the 100 meter long GSI accelerator, they fired charged zinc atoms, i.e. zinc ions, onto a lead foil. The fusion of the atomic nuclei of the two elements produced an atom of the new element 112. This atom was only stable for a fraction of a second; the scientists were able to identify the new element by measuring the radiation emitted during its decay.

Further independent experiments at other research facilities confirmed the discovery of the element. Last year, IUPAC officially recognized the existence of element 112, acknowledged the GSI team’s discovery and invited them to propose a name.

Copernicium is the sixth chemical element that GSI scientists discovered and named. The other elements carry the names bohrium (element 107), hassium (element 108), meitnerium (element 109), darmstadtium (element 110), and roentgenium (element 111).

21 scientists from Germany, Finland, Russia, and Slovakia collaborated in the GSI experiments that led to the discovery of element 112.

The goal of GSI scientists is to determine the heaviest element in the world and identify the limit of the periodic table of elements, in order to enhance their knowledge about the structure of matter and to learn about the genesis of life.

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