How far back can carbon dating go
However, because it has too many neutrons for the number of protons it contains, it is not a stable atom.
The radioactive carbon has six protons and eight neutrons in its nucleus, giving it a total atomic mass of 14.
This atom is not stable, and will break down, releasing nuclear energy in the process.
Usually a proton is knocked out of the nitrogen atom's nucleus and is replaced with the neutron.
The proton takes an electron with it and becomes an atom of hydrogen.
The nitrogen atom, which began with seven protons and seven neutrons, is left with only six protons and eight neutrons.
As the number of protons decides the chemical nature of an atom, the atom now behaves like a carbon atom.