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  • Elizabeth Cocking

Did You know? All about Helium.

This month is the 155th anniversary of the discovery of Helium, the second most abundant element in the universe.

Helium was first discovered in the Sun’s atmosphere during a total solar eclipse in 1868. It is the first element not to be discovered on Earth. Terrestrial helium was not discovered until 1895.

The symbol for Helium, He, gets its name from the Greek, “Helios,” meaning sun.

Architrave with sculpted metope showing sun god Helios in a quadriga; from temple of Athena at Troy, ca 300-280 BCE; Altes Museum, Berlin.

Besides filling party balloons Helium has many uses, including MRI machines, deep-dive tanks, NASA space launches, computer chip manufacturing, and arc welding processes.

Helium is so light that Earth’s gravity is not strong enough to hold on to it. When helium atoms are released into the atmosphere they rise until they escape into space.

It is estimated that the Sun produces 700 million tons of Helium per second.

Helium has the lowest boiling point of all elements 4.2 degrees Kelvin or -269 degrees Celsius, just 4 degrees above absolute zero.

Helium is the only element that cannot be solidified by sufficient cooling at normal atmospheric pressure.


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