Element 115: Moscow to earth or extraterrestrial

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Even uranium (92 from the periodic table) the elements are natural; then there are the man-made elements. The last additions, in 2016, were nihônio (Nh), moscow (Mc), tennessino (Ts) and oganessono (Og). If everyone has peculiar names, one hides a bizarre story: the Moscow (they say) is an extraterrestrial element, and anyone working in Area 51 knows that.

The (boring) official story

Moscow was discovered in 2003 by a group of 12 researchers led by nuclear physicist Yuri Oganessian. The new element was named after the city of Moscow, where the Flerov Laboratory for Nuclear Reactions is located, where the discovery took place.

Oganessian made elements 114 through 118 in the laboratory in the same way: by bombarding calcium isotopes on other elements, using a particle accelerator.

To make element 115 in 2003, the Russian team accelerated calcium ions -48 (48Ca) to about 10% of the speed of light, and then used them to bombard Americium-243 (243Am) with them. In the process, the nuclei of the two elements fused and divided, giving rise to four Moscow atoms.

It took years of research until the Moscow had its mass determined (288). To date, Moscow does not have a practical use outside laboratories.

The (bizarre) alternative story

Within the universe of ufologists, element 115 has long been known thanks to an American physicist, Robert Scott Lazar (or simply Bob Lazar), who revealed in 1989 that he had worked in the previous two years in an area called S-4, near to the mythical, secretive and highly controversial Area 51.

According to him, his job was to study the alien ships that had fallen to Earth and, by means of reverse engineering, to discover their operation. Element 115 would be what would make these spaceships fly. “It is impossible to synthesize such a heavy element here on Earth. The substance has to come from a place where super heavy elements could have been produced naturally, “he said at the time.

Lazar said there were nine alien spacecraft in an Area 51 hangar, all with anti-gravity propulsion technology, using Moscow in the navigation system. (As the US government does not deny or agree with those who say it worked in Area 51, Lazar’s claims have never been completely refuted).

An officially bizarre element

By email, chemist Jacklyn Gates, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, told the How Stuff Works website that Moscow “is special because we can manipulate it more easily than some lighter elements, like 112 or 113. Typically, as we add more protons, it becomes more difficult to make a new element. With Moscow, we were able to make more than 100 atoms of element 115, “she says.

If science was defended by Gates, to the rescue of Lazar comes the director of the documentary Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers (available on Netflix), Jeremy Corbell: “When Lazar went public in 1989, he made a point of explaining that a version of element 115 would be synthesized at some point in the future. The isotope discovered in 2003 is not what Lazar described; according to him, the 115 to which he had access was much more stable. ”


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