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The 96th element, curium, was named in honour of Pierre and Marie Curie who pioneered research in the area of physics and radioactivity.

Like all members of the family of Actinides, curium is highly radioactive. Many of this element's isotopes are short-lived, but interestingly, its most stable isotope, curium-247, has a half-life of 16 million years.

Curium is synthesized in nuclear reactors because it does not occur naturally in significant quantities. Two of its isotopes, curium-242 and curium-244, are used to generate thermoelectric power for instruments found in remote locations on Earth or in space vehicles. These two isotopes, especially curium-244, are able to maintain a relatively constant power output for many years, which makes them particularly useful in these applications.