The mass spectrometer is an instrument which can measure the masses and relative concentrations of atoms and molecules. It makes use of the basic magnetic force on a moving charged particle. Mass spectrometers are sensitive detectors of isotopes based on their masses. They are used in carbon dating and other radioactive dating processes. The combination of a mass spectrometer and a gas chromatograph makes a powerful tool for the detection of trace quantities of contaminants or toxins. A number of satellites and spacecraft have mass spectrometers for the identification of the small numbers of particles intercepted in space. For example, the SOHO satellite uses a mass spectrometer to analyze the solar wind.
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