Hamilton, Joseph H. Department of Physics and Astronomy, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.
Last reviewed:October 2019
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The positively electrically charged central core of the atom. Atoms are analogous to the solar system, with an extremely dense central core that provides the electrical positive charge to hold the negatively charged electrons in orbits through the Coulomb force, somewhat as the Sun's gravitational force holds the planets in orbit. The nucleus is composed of protons, which carry a positive electric charge, and neutrons, which have a net zero electric charge. Collectively, protons and neutrons are called nucleons. Both these particles are composed of positive and negatively charged particles called quarks, and both have a magnetic field associated with them. The masses of the protons and neutrons are 1836.2 and 1838.7 times the mass of the electron, so essentially all the mass of an atom is in its very tiny nucleus. See also: Atomic structure and spectra; Electron; Neutron; Nucleon; Proton; Quarks
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