Helium is a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas that is created due to the nuclear fusion of hydrogen in stars. But who discovered helium? This post will answer that question and then tell you a few interesting facts about helium.
Who Discovered Helium?
French astronomer Pierre Janssen first detected the presence of helium in an emission spectrum of the sun. He observed the spectrum on August 18, 1868 during a total solar eclipse. However, he thought the mysterious yellow line on the emission spectrum was due to sodium. On October 20, 1868, English astronomer Norman Lockyer also detected a yellow line in a solar spectrum. He thought that it was caused by an element that was not found on the earth. Sir William Ramsay was the first to isolate helium. In March, 1895, he treated the mineral cleveite with mineral acids and, when he analyzed the mixture, discovered a yellow line in the emission spectrum. This proved that a new element had indeed been found!
Summary: Pierre Janssen was the first to discover helium. However, he thought it was actually sodium. Norman Lockyer suggested that it was not sodium but an unknown element. Sir William Ramsay proved that the line was due to the presence of a new element- helium.
Interesting Facts About Helium
- Helium is the second lightest element. Hydrogen is the lightest.
- Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe.
- Helium is the second least reactive element.
- Of all the known gases, helium is the least soluble in water.
- Only 2 of the 8 known isotopes of helium are stable (not radioactive).
- Helium is lighter than air!
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