The heaviest element to date (atomic number 112) was created at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Durmstadt, Germany. Sigurd Hofmann and an international team first created the element in 1996, using the GSI accelerator. By firing zinc ions (atomic number 30) onto lead foil (atomic number 82), they forced the two nuclei to fuse into one new atom which lasted for a fraction of a second.
Over a decade of independent testing later, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) officially recognized the new element, gave the GSI team credit for the discovery, and invited them to name it.
The element was named copernicium, and given the abbreviation ‘Cn’. The name ‘copernicium’ honors scientist and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). The choice was formalized on Copernicus’ birthday, February 19th.