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Q about State of Hydrogen Atoms

  1. Oct 6, 2009 #1
    I was watching "The Universe" series talking about scram jets, and how hydrogen is one of the most common elements in the universe. After some searching I found this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H-alpha" [Broken] about different states of hydrogen atoms. Which made me ask what I thought to be an obvious question..

    It says http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H-alpha" [Broken]: "Since it takes nearly as much energy to excite the hydrogen atom's electron from n = 1 to n = 3 as it does to ionize the hydrogen atom, the probability of the electron being excited to n = 3 without being removed from the atom is very small. Instead, after being ionized, the electron and proton recombine to form a new hydrogen atom. In the new atom, the electron may begin in any energy level, and subsequently cascades to the ground state (n = 1), emitting photons with each transition."

    Does this mean that, hydrogen atoms in space without the protection of an atmosphere or magnetic field are in a constant state of flux between H1-H3 states? If you put a snow globe of super-dense hydrogen gas in space.. will it glow as atoms flux between h1->h3 & h3->h1 releasing photons? This would also not use up hydrogen, just use it as a medium to produce lower energy photons from higher energy gamma, ultra violet radiation, correct?

    (this is assuming of course that the necessary high energy UV is available to ionize the hydrogen(from the sun))
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 7, 2009 #2
    After a bit more searching, I found out that hydrogen does indeed do this naturally in space and is the cause for plasma surrounding neutron stars. Very cool stuff. It would basically be the equivalent of an aurora in space.


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    Last edited: Oct 7, 2009
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