In the beta decay of an atom of Co60, the radiation you would expect is one or two gamma rays, plus an electron plus an electron neutrino (and in the nucleus Ni60+, if I understand it well).

However, in the source of Co60 I'm using, I only hear about the gamma rays. Where are the electrons going? Do they stay "inside" the source, trapped because of the positive charge of the atomic nuclei? Should we see more photons in this case?


The electrons released in $^{60}$Co decay are mostly only about a third of a MeV in energy and are easily stopped. For example if your source is inside a metal foil the electrons will be blocked by it and only the gamma rays will get out. The source you're using may have been deliberately designed to block the electrons.

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  • $\begingroup$ Indeed, building a β-source that doesn't trap or significantly degrade the energies of the decay electrons turns out to be a challenge. $\endgroup$ – rob Sep 18 '14 at 22:19

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