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How Scientists Discovered Helium, the First Alien Element, 150 Years Ago

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First found only on the sun, scientists doubted the mysterious element even existed for more than a decade


“I have obtained one of the finest and least expected results—Spectra of the stars!—and beautiful spectra with colors and magnificent lines. Just one more step and the chemical composition of the universe will be revealed,” wrote astrophysicist Pierre Jules César Janssen to his wife from an observatory in Italy in December 1862. Armed with the latest technology of the day and observations made by other Western astrophysicists, Janssen was determined to pry open the secrets of the galaxy.


On August 18, 1868, Janssen managed to do just that. He became the first person to observe helium, an element never before seen on Earth, in the solar spectrum. At the time, though, Janssen didn’t know what he’d seen—just that it was something new.


An interesting article that might just teach you something you never knew before...


How Scientists Discovered Helium, the First Alien Element, 150 Years Ago (Smithsonian


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Interesting. I wonder if ones like this will keep discovering, after they stand up again. 

These guys are often impatient and find a driving force incuriosity, so no doubt he’ll keep searching for answers to question we might not even know to ask today.
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Gotta love helium. Last party I went to I rounded up some balloons and brought them home. Many happy hours putting bits of blue-tack on the string trying to get them to balance, and watching how they behaved in warmer parts of the room etc.


I get breathless a lot (M.E.) After tests came back fine I said to the asthma nurse that if I didn’t need oxygen then could I at least have a tank of helium on the back of my wheelchair. If I’m going to be breathless I might as well be giggling.

She gave me a funny look.

Edited by ChrisC
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Some elements behave really strangely at very low temperatures/very high pressures. The Sky at Night (BBC) recently discussed metallic hydrogen at the centre of Jupiter. I wonder where else superfluidity/superconductivity occur naturally or how we might make use of these effects in an eternity of time, in a perfect world.



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