LOS ANGELES – There’s a new element officially in town and its name is copernicium, after the 16th-century Polish scientist Nicolaus Copernicus. It is element 112 and its symbol is Cn.
Copernicium, a heavier relative of zinc, cadmium and mercury, was first seen in 1996 by researchers at the Society for Heavy Ions Research in Darmstadt, Germany, after they bombarded a lead target with zinc ions.
It took the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, which regulates nomenclature, nearly 14 years to resolve disputes between the Germans and American researchers over who was first to produce the new element, but the agency reported in the March issue of the journal Pure and Applied Chemistry that the Germans had priority and are thus entitled to propose a name.
Physicist Sigurd Hofmann, leader of the German team, said in a statement that the researchers’ intent was to “salute an influential scientist who didn’t receive any accolades in his own lifetime, and highlight the link between astronomy and the field of nuclear chemistry.”
Copernicus was the first scientist to conclude that the planets of the solar system revolve around the sun rather than the Earth.