Magic Number

Nucleus of atom, like extra-nuclear electrons, also has definite energy levels (shells). Nuclei with 2, 8, 20, 28, 50, 82 or 126 protons or neutrons have been found to be particularly stable with a large number of isotopes. These numbers, commonly known as Magic numbers are defined as the number of nucleons required for completion of the energy levels of the nucleus. Nucleons are arranged in shells as two protons or two neutrons (with paired spins) just like electrons arranged in the extra-nuclear part. Thus the following nuclei and containing protons 2, 8, 20 and 82 respectively (all magic numbers) and neutrons 2, 8, 20 and 126 respectively (all magic numbers) are the most stable.

Magic numbers for protons: 2, 8, 20, 28, 50, 82,114

Magic numbers for neutrons: 2, 8, 20, 28, 50, 126, 184, 196

When both the number of protons and number of neutrons are magic numbers, the nucleus is very stable. That is why most of the radioactive disintegration series terminate into stable isotope of lead (magic number for proton = 82, magic number for neutron = 126). Nuclei with nucleons just above the magic numbers are less stable and hence these may emit some particles to attain magic numbers.

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