They have masses of 13 and 14 respectively and are referred to as "carbon-13" and "carbon-14." If two atoms have equal numbers of protons but differing numbers of neutrons, one is said to be an "isotope" of the other.

Carbon-13 and carbon-14 are thus isotopes of carbon-12.

The amount of carbon-14 gradually decreases through radioactive beta decay with a half-life of 5,730 years.

So, scientists can estimate the age of the fossil by looking at the level of decay in its radioactive carbon.

How Carbon Dating works Carbon dating is one method scientists use to measure the ages of objects which were alive at some time in the past.

In our atmosphere there are particles of carbon, when rays from the sun hit them it turns a few of them into carbon 14 (a radioactive carbon).

At high geomagnetic latitudes, the carbon-14 spreads evenly throughout the atmosphere and reacts with oxygen to form carbon dioxide.

Outside the range of recorded history, calibration of the 14 clock is not possible.

One of the most frequent uses of radiocarbon dating is to estimate the age of organic remains from archaeological sites.

Carbon dating, also known as radiocarbon dating, is a method of estimating the age of carbon-bearing materials up to 60,000 years old.

Follow the links below to learn more about radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon dating uses carbon isotopes A special kind of radiocarbon dating: Bomb radiocarbon dating What is an isotope?

To understand radiocarbon dating, you first have to understand the word Although an element’s number of protons cannot change, the number of neutrons can vary slightly from each atom.