Polonium is a chemical element with the symbol Po and atomic number 84. A rare and highly radioactive metal with no stable isotopes, polonium is a chalcogen and chemically similar to selenium and tellurium, though its metallic character resembles that of its horizontal neighbors in the periodic table: thallium, lead, and bismuth. Due to the short half-life of all its isotopes, its natural occurrence is limited to tiny traces of the fleeting polonium-210 (with a half-life of 138 days) in uranium ores, as it is the penultimate daughter of natural uranium-238. Though longer-lived isotopes exist, such as the 125. 2 years half-life of polonium 209, they are much more difficult to produce. Today, polonium is usually produced in milligram quantities by the neutron irradiation of bismuth. Due to its intense radioactivity, which results in the radiolysis of chemical bonds and radioactive self-heating, its chemistry has mostly been investigated on the trace scale only.
Polonium was discovered in July 1898 by Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie, when it was extracted from the uranium ore pitchblende and identified solely by its strong radioactivity: it was the first element to be so discovered. Polonium was named after Marie Curie's homeland of Poland. Polonium has few applications, and those are related to its radioactivity: heaters in space probes, antistatic devices, sources of neutrons and alpha particles, and poison. It is extremely dangerous to humans.