So, a carbon atom might have six neutrons, or seven, or possibly eight—but it would always have six protons.
An “isotope” is any of several different forms of an element, each having different numbers of neutrons.
For example, all carbon atoms have 6 protons, all atoms of nitrogen have 7 protons, and all oxygen atoms have 8 protons.
The number of neutrons in the nucleus can vary in any given type of atom.
Neutrons that come from these fragmented atoms collide with C to be useful in age estimates.
This is a critical assumption in the dating process.
Scientists use a technique called radiometric dating to estimate the ages of rocks, fossils, and the earth.
Many people have been led to believe that radiometric dating methods have proved the earth to be billions of years old.
The illustration below shows the three isotopes of carbon.
Some isotopes of certain elements are unstable; they can spontaneously change into another kind of atom in a process called “radioactive decay.” Since this process presently happens at a known measured rate, scientists attempt to use it like a “clock” to tell how long ago a rock or fossil formed.
Protons and neutrons make up the center (nucleus) of the atom, and electrons form shells around the nucleus.