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The amount of strontium-86 in a given mineral sample will not change.Therefore the relative amounts of rubidium-87 and strontium-87 can be determined by expressing their ratios to strontium-86: Rb-87/Sr-86 and Sr87/Sr-86 We measure the amounts of rubidium-87 and strontium-87 as ratios to an unchanging content of strontium-86.(Note that this does not mean that the ratios are the same everywhere on earth.It merely means that the ratios are the same in the particular magma from which the test sample was later taken.) As strontium-87 forms, its ratio to strontium-86 will increase.

F, the fraction of K40 remaining, is equal to the amount of potassium-40 in the sample, divided by the sum of potassium-40 in the sample plus the calculated amount of potassium required to produce the amount of argon found. In spite of the fact that it is a gas, the argon is trapped in the mineral and can't escape.

An atom with the same number of protons in the nucleus but a different number of neutrons is called an isotope.

For example, uranium-238 is an isotope of uranium-235, because it has 3 more neutrons in the nucleus.

(Do not confuse with the highly radioactive isotope, strontium-90.) Strontium occurs naturally as a mixture of several nuclides, including the stable isotope strontium-86.

If three different strontium-containing minerals form at the same time in the same magma, each strontium containing mineral will have the same ratios of the different strontium nuclides, since all strontium nuclides behave the same chemically.

Strontium-86 is a stable element that does not undergo radioactive change.