I would like to know what exactly the term differential cross section means. It comes from electron scattering experiments which are used to deduce the charge distribution of a nucleus and the cross section is given as a function of the scattering angle. But I don't understand what it means.

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    $\begingroup$ Have you looked at the Wikipedia pages on cross-section (physics) and scattering cross-section? $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I did have a read through the wiki page on cross section (physics) and didn't understand it very well, but I have had a look now at the scattering cross-section page and seem to have finally understood it. Thank you! $\endgroup$
    – user1314
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 13:33

1 Answer 1


Differential cross section is defined to be:

$$ \dfrac{d\sigma}{d\Omega} $$

In plain words, this expression gives the probability that a particle passing through an area of $d\sigma$ before scattering can be found within the solid angle $ d\Omega $ after scattering.

This Wikipedia image can give a clear picture Differential cross section figure

  • $\begingroup$ This is by far the simplest explanation I've come across. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 14, 2022 at 14:02

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