Celebrate 138 years of helium

On this day in 1868, the French astronomer Pierre Jules César Janssen discovered Helium.  Ever since, ordinary people have been talking with funny voices and laughing while destroying their esouphagus.

In 1862, impressed and fascinated by the spectroscopic work of Gustav Kirchhoff and Robert Bunsen, Janssen began his studies of the solar spectrum. His first important contribution was to demonstrate that some of the dark lines observed in the solar spectrum were caused by water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere. He made lasting contributions in solar spectroscopy, in particular in the observation of solar prominences. Following his observations of the 1868 solar eclipse in India, he suggested that some of the unknown spectral lines observed above the solar limb were due to a hitherto unknown chemical element. J. Norman Lockyer independently and simultaneously arrived at same conclusion, and both men are now credited with the discovery of Helium.

I’m guessing it was a few years later that Helium was put in to balloons for all the spoken zaniness we’ve come to love Helium for, but noting the existance of this element in space was the important first step.

[tags]Pierre Jules César Janssen, Helium[/tags]