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Gold foil experiment. Animation depicting the expected outcome of Rutherford's 1909 experiment to probe the structure of an atom. At left, a source of alpha radiation is firing alpha particles (helium nuclei) at a thin sheet of gold foil (down centre). Most of the alpha particles pass straight through the foil, as was expected, with only minor deviations. The inset shows a close-up of a gold atom according to the prevailing 'plum pudding' model, in which negatively charged electrons (blue) are studded in a diffuse cloud of positive charge (red). This relatively diffuse atom would not be able to deflect a large alpha particle. However, this was not what was observed. For a clip showing the actual result, which led to the discovery of the atomic nucleus, see K003 3969.
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