Neutrons

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An atomic nucleus is formed by a number of protons, Z (the atomic number), and a number of neutrons, N (the neutron number), bound together by the nuclear force. The atomic number defines the chemical properties of the atom, and the neutron number determines the isotope or nuclide. The terms isotope and nuclide are often used synonymously, but they refer to chemical and nuclear properties, respectively. Strictly speaking, isotopes are two or more nuclides with the same number of protons; nuclides with the same number of neutrons are called isotones. The atomic mass number, symbol A, equals Z+N. Nuclides with the same atomic mass number are called isobars. The nucleus of the most common isotope of the hydrogen atom (with the chemical symbol 1H) is a lone proton. The nuclei of the heavy hydrogen isotopes deuterium (D or 2H) and tritium (T or 3H) contain one proton bound to one and two neutrons, respectively. All other types of atomic nuclei are composed of two or more protons and various numbers of neutrons. The most common nuclide of the common chemical element lead, 208Pb, has 82 protons and 126 neutrons, for example. The table of nuclides comprises all the known nuclides. Even though it is not a chemical element, the neutron is included in this table.