Sunday, 17 April 2016


 Hydrogen is the simplest and most abundant element on the periodic table. It consists of one proton and one electron. Its atomic number is 1 and its chemical symbol is H. Through this post I will write about its importance in the past, its fourth state of matter, and the inner beauty that it exhibits light-years away.
The Hindenburg disaster

Hydrogen was named after the two Greek words υδρο(hydro), meaning water, and γενης(genes), meaning creator, when it was discovered to create water when burned. In its pure state, hydrogen is a gas that is invisible and highly flammable. Because of its low density, hydrogen  is one of the two atomic elements that is lighter than air. this makes it able to float large objects. People took advantage of this fact by building blimps(zeppelins), aircraft that use the lifting power of hydrogen. They carried more than 35,000  passengers over the years from 1910 to 1914 without serious accident, but on 6 May 1937, the passenger airship Hindenburg mysteriously caught fire and crashed in New Jersey. From then on, hydrogen was considered far too flammable as a lifting gas.

As a gas, hydrogen is colourless, odourless and tasteless, yet we benefit from it every day. It is visible as a plasma in all stars, including our sun. The sun is mostly hydrogen that has been exposed to high temperatures or a strong electromagnetic field, converting it into plasma, the fourth state of matter. As a plasma, the hydrogen atoms are stripped of their electrons. This makes it possible to fuse hydrogen atoms together into helium, and to produce the intense amount of heat and light that is crucial for the Earth's ecosystem.

Hydrogen, like all other elements, has a dark side. The sun constantly emits positively and negatively charged hydrogen ions through interplanetary space. This is called solar wind. These particles can travel at up to one million miles per hour. Fortunately for us, Earth is protected by a magnetic field, which shields the planet from solar radiation. Were it not for this magnetic field, much of the Earth's atmosphere would have been stripped away by solar wind, rendering it lifeless.
The Ring nebula

Hydrogen was first created by the big bang, roughly 13.7 billion years ago. Ninety percent of the universe consists of Hydrogen, which is mostly in stars and nebulae. Nebulae are mostly ionised hydrogen which glows in hydrogen's spectral emission lines. When I lived in a place with less light pollution, me and my family went outside with a telescope to look at the stars. One object that is visible in the Australian night sky is the Orion nebula, which appears as the middle 'star' in Orion's sword. My favourite nebula is the Ring nebula, which lies in the constellation Lyra.

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