 Home
 Discuss
 Ask the Expert
 Emission Spectrum of Hydrogen
 Study
 Fun
 Entrance Exam
 Ask the Expert

0
questions
0
answers
When an electric current is passed through a glass tube that contains hydrogen gas at low pressure the tube gives off blue light. When this light is passed through a prism (as shown in the figure below), four narrow bands of bright light are observed against a black background.
This is what the spectrum looks like if you plot it in terms of wavelength instead of frequency:
These narrow bands have the characteristic wavelengths and colors shown in the table below.
Wavelength  Color  
656.2  red  
486.1  bluegreen  
434.0  blueviolet  
410.1  violet 
Four more series of lines were discovered in the emission spectrum of hydrogen by searching the infrared spectrum at longer wavelengths and the ultraviolet spectrum at shorter wavelengths. Each of these lines fits the same general equation, where n_{1} and n_{2} are integers and R_{H} is 1.09678 x 10^{2} nm^{1}.
A redshift is a shift in the frequency of a photon toward lower energy, or longer wavelength. The redshift is defined as the change in the wavelength of the light divided by the rest wavelength of the light, as
z = (Observed wavelength  Rest wavelength)/(Rest wavelength)
Note that postive values of z correspond to increased wavelengths (redshifts).
Different types of redshifts have different causes.
The Doppler Redshift results from the relative motion of the light emitting object and the observer. If the source of light is moving away from you then the wavelength of the light is stretched out, i.e., the light is shifted towards the red. These effects, individually called the blueshift, and the redshift are together known as doppler shifts. The shift in the wavelength is given by a simple formula
(Observed wavelength  Rest wavelength)/(Rest wavelength) = (v/c)
so long as the velocity v is much less than the speed of light. A relativistic doppler formula is required when velocity is comparable to the speed of light.
The Cosmological Redshift is a redshift caused by the expansion of space. The wavelength of light increases as it traverses the expanding universe between its point of emission and its point of detection by the same amount that space has expanded during the crossing time.
The Gravitational Redshift is a shift in the frequency of a photon to lower energy as it climbs out of a gravitational field.