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Astronomers and physicists have worked hard to learn the lines that go with each element by studying the way atoms absorb and emit light in laboratories here on Earth. Then they can use this knowledge to identify the elements in celestial bodies. In this way, we now know the chemical makeup of not just any star, but even galaxies of stars so distant that their light started on its way to us long before Earth had even formed.

Energy levels and excitation

Bohr’s model of the hydrogen atom was a great step forward in our understanding of the atom. However, we know today that atoms cannot be represented by quite so simple a picture. For example, the concept of sharply defined electron orbits is not really correct; however, at the level of this introductory course, the notion that only certain discrete energies are allowable for an atom is very useful. The energy levels we have been discussing can be thought of as representing certain average distances of the electron’s possible orbits from the atomic nucleus.

Ordinarily, an atom is in the state of lowest possible energy, its ground state    . In the Bohr model of the hydrogen atom, the ground state corresponds to the electron being in the innermost orbit. An atom can absorb energy, which raises it to a higher energy level (corresponding, in the simple Bohr picture, to an electron’s movement to a larger orbit)—this is referred to as excitation    . The atom is then said to be in an excited state . Generally, an atom remains excited for only a very brief time. After a short interval, typically a hundred-millionth of a second or so, it drops back spontaneously to its ground state, with the simultaneous emission of light. The atom may return to its lowest state in one jump, or it may make the transition in steps of two or more jumps, stopping at intermediate levels on the way down. With each jump, it emits a photon of the wavelength that corresponds to the energy difference between the levels at the beginning and end of that jump.

An energy-level diagram for a hydrogen atom and several possible atomic transitions are shown in [link] . When we measure the energies involved as the atom jumps between levels, we find that the transitions to or from the ground state, called the Lyman series of lines, result in the emission or absorption of ultraviolet photons. But the transitions to or from the first excited state (labeled n = 2 in part (a) of [link] ), called the Balmer series, produce emission or absorption in visible light. In fact, it was to explain this Balmer series that Bohr first suggested his model of the atom.

Energy-level diagrams for hydrogen.

Energy-Level Diagram for Hydrogen and the Bohr Model for Hydrogen. The right hand side (a) of the figure shows the Bohr model with the Lyman, Balmer, and Paschen series illustrated. A small circle representing the nucleus is enclosed by a larger circle for orbit n=1, then another larger circle for n=2 and so on up to n=5. At the top of this diagram are 4 arrows starting at n=2, with one arrow going up to n=3, one to n=4 and one to n=5. As these arrows are moving away from the nucleus, they represent absorption of energy by the atom to move an electron up to each level. Next is the Lyman series, with arrows from each upper orbital pointing down to n=1. As these arrows are pointing toward the nucleus, energy is released from the atom as electrons “fall” from upper levels down to n=1. Finally, there is the Paschen series, with arrows from the upper levels all pointing down to n=3. Again, as these arrows point toward the nucleus, light is emitted as the electron moves closer to the nucleus. The left hand side (b) of the figure shows the movement of electrons from higher to lower energy levels, represented with arrows pointing downward. From left to right, Lyman series has the longest arrows, then Balmer series with arrows about half as long, then Paschen series with arrows about a fourth as long, then Bracket series with arrows about an eighth as long.
(a) Here we follow the emission or absorption of photons by a hydrogen atom according to the Bohr model. Several different series of spectral lines are shown, corresponding to transitions of electrons from or to certain allowed orbits. Each series of lines that terminates on a specific inner orbit is named for the physicist who studied it. At the top, for example, you see the Balmer series, and arrows show electrons jumping from the second orbit ( n = 2) to the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth orbits. Each time a “poor” electron from a lower level wants to rise to a higher position in life, it must absorb energy to do so. It can absorb the energy it needs from passing waves (or photons) of light. The next set of arrows (Lyman series) show electrons falling down to the first orbit from different (higher) levels. Each time a “rich” electron goes downward toward the nucleus, it can afford to give off (emit) some energy it no longer needs. (b) At higher and higher energy levels, the levels become more and more crowded together, approaching a limit. The region above the top line represents energies at which the atom is ionized (the electron is no longer attached to the atom). Each series of arrows represents electrons falling from higher levels to lower ones, releasing photons or waves of energy in the process.

Questions & Answers

waad mahad santnihiin dhamaan waxaan doonayaa inaan wax ka barto astronomyga waa maxay xidigis?
Abdicaroog Reply
understanding astronomy
ricardo Reply
What About Understanding Astronomy?
Adam
yap
Janmarc
what is astronomy?
Janmarc
define..
Janmarc
Currently, I'm studying in 10th grade. What should I do after my 10th so that I can get an astronomy career?
Chaya Reply
try jee exam and achieve a good score in jee advance to join in IIST(Space research institute)
Sri
okay.. thanks
Chaya
this famous person was the first to recognise earthshine on the moin
Rajan Reply
Leonardo Da Vinci.....
Adam
what is string theory?
sakshi Reply
A Cosmological Theory Based On The Exsistence Of Cosmic Vibrating Strings.....
Adam
Does MIT have good astrophysics courses ?
priyanshu Reply
Probably The Best In The United States.....
Adam
But Don't Get Caught Up On Who's The Best, You Can Be The Next Noble Winning Astrophysicist.....
Adam
hmmm..........that's nice one....Adam had said.....
Gospel
How did ASTRONOMY helped you understand yourself ? 🤔
Hussain Reply
why do you want to study ASTRONOMY?
Hussain Reply
It is one of the natural sciences and therefore worth exploring. You are a part of the universe and it is a part of you. The sky is my classroom. (student of cosmology, Oxford Uni)
SuperNova
because everything in the space is just beautiful...interesting and worth studying and exploring...
Memo
I have been studying astrophysics an love it
Carla
I love to learn what makes up our lives an heavens an how it works there us so much more out there than books an our veiw of thw heavens can reveal
Carla
How did ASTRONOMY helped you understand yourself ?
Hussain
Because it proves the impossibles and the limitless.
Dark
It helped me realize that there are like countless possibilities in life and get all through it.
Dark
It honestly showed me to view the world in a balanced way. Because space beautiful and calm yet violent, and so is the world, and we should still help, but there will always be violent people much like violent astrophysical jets.
Da
What does ASTRONOMY means?
Hussain
Does anyone know where can I study astronomy in Spain? My budget is too low for traveling out there...
Valerian Reply
How long the duration was when the laws of physics became active after the big bang?And why the time is called plank's time?
Mostak Reply
how many galaxies in universe?
Shaikh Reply
10 to the power 11
Wwe
testing
Ahmad
thnx
Shaikh
if u can count all the sands on the beaches and on the deserts then u will know how much it will be.......some said more than 1,000,000,000 galaxies are there in our universe...
Gospel
it's ok bro
Wwe
I hope you will become a member of nasa
Wwe
just new in this area, from art background not science
Ahmad
what's ur name wwe
Shaikh
The Observable Universe Contains Between 200 Billion To 2 Trillion Galaxies.....
Adam
are u sure?
Caleb
It actually hasn't been proven, people have just made estimations.
Ariana
the thing is u can't count,maybe the our number system will collapse there...who knows?
Abdullah
What's the exact time when the laws of physics became active after the big bang ?
Mostak
Actually we still don't know the exact number of galaxies in the universe, since the universe is bigger than we can imagine and it is still expanding even bigger today than yesterday
Ismaee
we didn't actually find the exact number but may be it is around 100 billion
Smridhi
why this universe is expanding?
ATUL
Science Does Not Concern It Self With Why Questions, Science Is Geared For How And What Questions.....
Adam
Why Questions Form And Endless Loop.....
Adam
According to the universal law of cause and effect .any phenomenon that occur in this universe should have any reason , nothing happen without any reason.
ATUL
Can you tell me the expanding speed of this universe.
ATUL
yes that would be a great question to have answered what is the expanding speed of the universe?
Daijahrel
Remember that most of what you can see is light years away. We're looking back in time, we can never know the current nature of our observations, only glimpse the galaxies and stars as they once were. Strange but true, and a little sad.
SuperNova
Correct, That's Why Telescopes Are Like Time Machines, You See The Past.....
Adam
really telescope can see the past?....i meant everything is in its place, though it rotates or revolve or whatever it is.......but how can this telescope can see the past.....can we see how our Universe was created,how it formed out of it? thats my question to all of you guys can you plz tell me.
Gospel
Because We Dont See Any Object In Space As It Is, We See It As It Was..... Hope This Clears That Up For You.....
Adam
And One Day We Might Have A Telescope That Will Show Us The Big Bang.....
Adam
ok....... that will be nice one
Gospel
ok....... that will be nice one
Gospel
Travel at light speed in a spaceship at 186,000 miles every SECOND. At this speed it will take you 100,000 years just to cross our Milky Way galaxy, which is just a dot in the sky. Next stop, the Andromeda galaxy, after 2.5 million years, still in the Local Group, Virgo Supercluster, still a dot.
SuperNova
Pretty Much.....
Adam
there are nearly 200 million I suppose.
Amit
hi i need a telescope would you help mee
Nauman Reply
i can only advice you to go to some museum
Gospel
wher is it?
Nauman
but before that.......... i wanna know where are you from and from which state...and if you are nearer to that of the museum or will be able to go then.,.. i donot have any more words.
Gospel
What Do Plan To Observe?
Adam
sorry . i am from asia
Nauman
Check on amazon.Celeston telescopes are good for beginners.
priyanshu
can yoy introduce your self
Nauman
can you
Nauman
Asia...? from which country you belong into ...,,is it India or where?
Gospel
Do You Want A Telescope With ALot Of Maintenance Or Zero Maintenance?
Adam
pakistan
Nauman
with alot offf
Nauman
Any second hand online stores in your area? great for unused Christmas gifts etc..
Collins
So You Want A Newtonian Reflector?
Adam
hey guys I wanna ask you all that will it be safe or helpful to communicate with an intelligent civilization like are we safe ?
Samuel
Is the Orion Sky Quest XT6 a good Dobsonian?
TheDirtyGhost
Look for a Sky Watcher 130BKS, it has an upgraded dual speed 2" focuser. You can use 1.25" or 2" eyepieces with it and it is quite easy to pollinate using a simple visual collimating eyepiece. This scope is great and ready for prime focus astrophotography if you choose to go that route.
Robert
Sorry, spell check error. Pollinate should be collimate. lol
Robert
Dobsonians Require A Lot Of Maintenance, If You Don't Mind Cleaning And Collimating On A Regular Basis, Then Go Ahead A Dobsonian Puts Up Excellent Views Especially For Deep Space Objects..... Now If You Don't Want Constant Maintenance Then A Schmidt Cassegrain Might Be A Better Fit For You.....
Adam
So what i would put for that answer ?
Abdulla Reply
The largest observatory complex in the world is on Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain on Earth. Whatare some factors astronomers consider when selecting an observatory site? Don’t forget practical ones.Should astronomers, for example, consider building an observatory on Denali (Mount McKinley) or MountEverest?
Abdulla Reply
i need help on the the second part
Abdulla
Should astronomers for example considered building an observatory on Denali (Mount Mckinley) or MountEverest ?
Abdulla
I would take into consideration. climate weather pattern.
basim
also, could an establishment be built and be able to sustain years of being beaten by the weather?
basim
so far Mount Everest to my understanding is a difficult mountain
basim
it is because of light pollution in the cities that the observatories are situated in extremely remote areas.
Ashish
Everest ist the tallest mountain
Paul
how far us milky way galaxy?
ShowsSpy Reply
oh man
madison
We are part of the Milky Way Galaxy. We are within it, so it's not really away from us. Our galaxy is 100,000 light years in diameter. The nearest big galaxy is Andromeda, around 2 million lightyears away.
Jignesh
its 200,000 light years
Gospel
Practice Key Terms 4

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Source:  OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax CNX. Apr 12, 2017 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11992/1.13
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