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Spectral Lines of Hydrogen

Emission lines are related to electron transitions.

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Deciphering the Sun

Deciphering the Sun

Credit: AER Wilmington DE
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25949441@N02/9616918091

You may have learned that the Sun is made up of mostly hydrogen and helium. Before accepting this as fact, think about it. How do we know this to be true? No one has been to the Sun, and no unmanned spacecraft have returned from the Sun. However, there is something from the Sun that is available in abundance here on Earth – sunlight. By analyzing the light that the Sun emits, we can obtain a large amount of information, including what elements are present.

Amazing But True!

• Essentially all of the information we have about stars comes from analysis of the light they emit, including both visible and non-visible electromagnetic radiation.
• Credit: NASA
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Sun_by_the_Atmospheric_Imaging_Assembly_of_NASA%27s_Solar_Dynamics_Observatory_-_20100819.jpg

This is a false-color image of the Sun observed in the extreme ultraviolet region of the spectrum [Figure2]

• The extremely hot center of a star emits a continuous spectrum. However, some of this light is absorbed by cooler atoms on the surface of the star. By matching these absorption patterns to known atomic absorption spectra, we can determine the relative abundance of various elements in the star.
• Learn more about using emission and absorption spectra to analyze starlight by watching the following video:

Explore More

1. Atomic hydrogen has a strong absorption band at a frequency of \begin{align*}2.45 \times 10^{15} \ Hz\end{align*}. What is the wavelength of this band? Is this wavelength visible to humans?