The Story of Helium and the Birth of Astrophysics by Biman B. Nath

By Biman B. Nath

What if the most exciting tales within the background of technological know-how grew to become out to be improper? Can city legends creep into the hallowed grounds of clinical heritage? As great because it might sound, the tale of 1 of an important parts nowa days – helium - has been frequently misrepresented in books, encyclopedias, and on-line assets, although archival fabrics inform a distinct tale. Open the access for Helium in any encyclopaedia and you'll learn a fake tale that has been repeated through the years. ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica’, for instance, says that helium was once came across by means of the French astronomer Pierre Janssen whereas watching a complete sun eclipse from India in 1868. it sounds as if he spotted anything new within the spectrum of the sunlight, which he concept was once the signature of an undiscovered point.

The fact is that Janssen by no means observed any signal of a brand new point in the course of his observations in India. His experiences and letters don't point out one of these declare.

Other resources might have you ever think that helium used to be together found by means of Janssen and Norman Lockyer, a British scientist, and that their discovery letters reached Paris a similar day, one despatched from India, and the opposite from England.

Again, in truth different. letters from Lockyer and Janssen did achieve Paris an analogous day in 1868, yet their letters didn't point out any new point. What that they had found was once a brand new method of gazing the sunlight and not using a sun eclipse. this could finally bring about the invention of helium, during which Lockyer may play a in demand position, yet no longer Janssen.

At an analogous time, Norman Robert Pogson, a disgruntled British astronomer stationed in India did detect whatever extraordinary throughout the eclipse. He used to be the 1st one to note anything atypical concerning the spectrum of the sunlight that day, and his observations might turn out an important to Lockyer’s personal investigations of helium. yet Pogson’s record used to be by no means released in any peer reviewed magazine and it languished at the table of a neighborhood British officer in colonial India.

This publication tells the genuine tale at the back of the invention of helium, in addition to biographical sketches of the scientists and outlines of the milieu during which they labored. it's going to express the buzz, confusion, and keenness of 19th century scientists, utilizing their very own phrases, from their letters and experiences.

“The tale of Helium and the start of Astrophysics” chronicles the most fascinating discoveries ever made and explains why it additionally marked the beginning of a brand new department of technology referred to as ‘astrophysics.’

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In particular, the darkest line in the yellow region, marked D, is due to sodium. The signature line for helium falls near this line, as we shall see later, and the proximity of the two caused a good deal of confusion the stars closer. In the last decade of his life, he invented another instrument that would allow studying spectra with an unprecedented accuracy, and the later discoveries owed much to this invention. During the years 1821–1823, he came up with what is now called a diffraction grating that broke light into constituent colors when reflected on it, just like a prism did but with much better accuracy.

Whiston (Routledge, London; 1997), 188. 2. As quoted in J. Longrigg, “The Roots of all things”, Isis, Vol. 67 (1976), 421. 3. W. ), 103. 4. Allen G. Debus, The English Paracelsians (Oldbourne: London, 1965), 71–76. 5. Allen G. Debus, The Chemical Philosophy (Dover, New York: 2002), 79. 6. , 84. 7. , 482. 8. Gerald J. Holton, Introduction to Concepts and Theories in Physical Sciences (Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1985), 231. 9. Mary E. Weeks, “The discovery of the elements. IX. Three alkali metals: Potassium, sodium, and lithium,” Journal of Chemical Education, Vol.

He wrote: The analysis of the spectrum by colored media presents several circumstances worthy of remark. First, the irregular and singular distribution in the dark bands which cross the spectrum, when viewed through such media as have several maxima of transmission, obviously leads us to refer to Fraunhofer’s fixed lines, and the analogous phenomena to be noticed in the light from other sources, to the same cause, whatever it may be, which determines the absorption of some rays in From Chemistry to the Stars 31 preference to others.

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