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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

How to determine the velocity of light?
PARTHIB Reply
what is mean by Big Bang
block Reply
What it means by Big Bang is how the world was made and came in to exist
Glory
The Big Bang Is The Best Explanation For What We See Around Us, And For The Origin Of The Universe, All Our Evidence Points To The Big Bang Theory..... And Was Proposed By A Belgian Priest.....
Adam
if the big bang theory is really true than i would like to know what exploded and where did it came from and where did the energy came from and where come from for the matter to expand into amd where did the organization come from and where did the information come from.........
Gospel
Some say that on the otherside of the singularity was a black hole. They say that at the other end of all black holes is another universe. Hence the multiverse. It's all theoretical at this point but less than a 100 years ago people believed that there was only 1 galaxy in the universe. So why
Rafael
should there be only 1 universe?
Rafael
universe.
Rafael
is astronomy a hard subject to learn because i want to be an astronomer
FNAF Reply
No it not it just takes time and effort to learn
Glory
Why are they so far away that their light takes hundreds of millions of years to reach us on earth?
LadyCatTM Reply
what is comets , astroids ,
Sumit Reply
comets are broken pieces of dust frozen debris Asteroids are big soiled pieces of Ice that burst into flames when it in to earth's atmosphere
Glory
hi, I am yamini, I am in class 8 but very much interested in astronomy and go to NASA, what are the subjects in which I can master and lead to NASA.
yamini Reply
Hello Yamini, Im Ken and I'm avery intrested in joining the NASA too. Is nice to meet you.
Ken
very*
Ken
nice to meet u ken
yamini
What I know about the subjects is that you have to be a master on science and math, also if you know about aviation is better too
Ken
I read that the Russian language is very important, is not a requirement but it's like an extra point!
Ken
yeah like physics, chemistry and maths, they are my most favorite.
yamini
than you can go free of cost
Arush
Yes, That's right!
Ken
how
yamini
Oh! Free of cost?
Ken
hello yamini nice to meet you
Burak
wow from NASA ur so lucky
FNAF
hello yamini nice to meet you
block
what is time
Abdul Reply
Time is relative
mrunal
pls elaborate
sakshi
the clear defination.I know that.
Abdul
In planet mars there the life exits or not and is there water there
Eshwarsa Reply
see till now nothing can be found as u know that the curiosity rover has struck in mars
Maya
It has been proven that there are water molecules on Mars but not enough that most lifeforms could thrive upon.
Ariana
There are huge amounts of water in the ice caps and under the surface. The surface and chemistry indicate that Mars had cosiderable amounts of water on its surface in the past.
Julius
what is your opinion about the theory of Vedas about modern physics..
Manish Reply
i think in some ways vedas are also correct but not everytime
Maya
I agree
sakshi
hmm even I agree
Samuel
Is there any patened theory about time relativitg in growth and development?
donot Reply
some astronomer's says that there is no alien exist but why search for extra terrestrial intelligence center is established
Eshwarsa Reply
No One Knows That For Absolute Fact, The Universe Is Too Huge To Have Any Type Of Idea About What Exist In The Far Reaches Of Our Universe.....
Adam
Check Out The Drake Equation.....
Adam
their should be aliens as like ours there would be another planet
Maya
which could have existed life on it
Maya
adam i want to ask a question
Maya
can kepler 1st law be applied on all the planets of the universe
Maya
hello, anyone home?
Denise
guys listen we cannot ever find aliens because our technology is not that great.we don't know whether they exist or no because our universe is very large . Just for an example;even if we spot out aliens we cannot reach there because lot of time must have been passed and before us reaching there
Samuel
what if their species or existence might get vanished our have been extinct!! getting my point
Samuel
sjskskfhjkkktewqqw and try?
Lanika Reply
what is this ?
Samuel
hi I am Samuel from India mumbai
Samuel
nice to meet you
Samuel
thats my question, what is this?
penzias and wilson's a discovery of the cosmic microwave background is a nice example of scientific serendipity-something that is found by chance but turns out to have a positive outcome
Jacqueline Reply
how should I make my carrier in astronomy
Ayush Reply
I think that Newton's third law is not appropriate if any also thinks like this please reply me
Ayush
Can you explain your reasoning
Huh
why u think so
joseph
yes Ayush u are right
Yoganshu
I think when we apply force to a object it start moving but , a/c to Newton's third law every action has equal and opposite reaction,so object should also exert equal force on us and it should not move due to balanced force
Ayush
if I am not right then reply me
Ayush
no
Zack
because of friction that opposes that force and help us to move ahead
Manish
but this is not satisfied as third law say another thing
Ayush
you are telling why object moves
Ayush
you have to think a/c to third law
Ayush
its because of its mass
Maya
because it is applying equal and opposite force but also our mass is also less in comparison to the object
Maya
which is why we cant move the object but it can make move us
Maya
manish is too correct in his place because we need to apply force which would overcome the frictional force
Maya
My dear friends, can u plz tell me that among u guys who are in the field of cosmology
Madhav Reply
😢I am not there in cosmology
Samuel
Just A Science Fan.....
Adam
Adam even I am 😥😅😅😂😂
Samuel
I am also not in cosmology but I am just a fan or we can say science and part of NASA is my dream
Yoganshu
yoganshu Arya same here
Samuel
you are from which country
Yoganshu
hi yoganshu
Samuel
India
Samuel
which state
Samuel
I am also from India
Yoganshu
from delhi
Yoganshu
and u...?
Yoganshu
I am from Maharashtra
Samuel
from which state?
Yoganshu
You are a ASTRONOMER ...
Yoganshu
or a scientist..
Yoganshu
or just a member
Yoganshu
hi
Samuel
8
Samuel
Hi
Amit
hi
Alebiosu
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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