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It's taken years, but physicists have finally filled in a persistent gap in the periodic table. Eight years after the creation of element 118, the heaviest known atom, researchers have made a few atoms of its slightly lighter neighbor, element 117, by shooting an intense beam of calcium ions into a target of berkelium. Besides sketching in the blank space in the table, the discovery bolsters the notion of an "island of stability," a group of superheavy nuclei still tantalizingly out of reach that theorists predict may be as stable as more familiar elements.

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