Spectral line

A spectral line is a dark or bright line in an otherwise uniform and continuous spectrum, resulting from emission or absorption of light in a narrow frequency range, compared with the nearby frequencies. Spectral lines are often used to identify atoms and molecules. These "fingerprints" can be compared to the previously collected "fingerprints" of atoms and molecules,[1] and are thus used to identify the atomic and molecular components of stars and planets, which would otherwise be impossible.

Continuous spectrum
Absorption lines (discrete spectrum)
Spectrum of blue sky
Absorption lines for air, under indirect illumination, with the direct light source not visible, so that the gas is not directly between source and detector. Here, Fraunhofer lines in sunlight and Rayleigh scattering of this sunlight is the "source." This is the spectrum of a blue sky somewhat close to the horizon, pointing east at around 3 or 4 pm (i.e., Sun toward the west) on a clear day.

Types of line spectra

Simple spectroscope
Continuous spectrum of an incandescent lamp (mid) and discrete spectrum lines of a fluorescent lamp (bottom)

Spectral lines are the result of interaction between a quantum system (usually atoms, but sometimes molecules or atomic nuclei) and a single photon. When a photon has about the right amount of energy to allow a change in the energy state of the system (in the case of an atom this is usually an electron changing orbitals), the photon is absorbed. Then it will be spontaneously re-emitted, either in the same frequency as the original or in a cascade, where the sum of the energies of the photons emitted will be equal to the energy of the one absorbed (assuming the system returns to its original state).

A spectral line may be observed either as an emission line or an absorption line. Which type of line is observed depends on the type of material and its temperature relative to another emission source. An absorption line is produced when photons from a hot, broad spectrum source pass through a cold material. The intensity of light, over a narrow frequency range, is reduced due to absorption by the material and re-emission in random directions. By contrast, a bright emission line is produced when photons from a hot material are detected in the presence of a broad spectrum from a cold source. The intensity of light, over a narrow frequency range, is increased due to emission by the material.

Spectral lines are highly atom-specific, and can be used to identify the chemical composition of any medium capable of letting light pass through it. Several elements were discovered by spectroscopic means, including as helium, thallium, and caesium. Spectral lines also depend on the physical conditions of the gas, so they are widely used to determine the chemical composition of stars and other celestial bodies that cannot be analyzed by other means, as well as their physical conditions.

Mechanisms other than atom-photon interaction can produce spectral lines. Depending on the exact physical interaction (with molecules, single particles, etc.), the frequency of the involved photons will vary widely, and lines can be observed across the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to gamma rays.


Strong spectral lines in the visible part of the spectrum often have a unique Fraunhofer line designation, such as K for a line at 393.366 nm emerging from singly ionized Ca+, though some of the Fraunhofer "lines" are blends of multiple lines from several different species. In other cases the lines are designated according to the level of ionization by adding a Roman numeral to the designation of the chemical element, so that Ca+ also has the designation Ca II. Neutral atoms are denoted with the roman number I, singly ionized atoms with II, and so on, so that for example Fe IX (IX, roman 9) represents eight times ionized iron. More detailed designations usually include the line wavelength and may include a multiplet number (for atomic lines) or band designation (for molecular lines). Many spectral lines of atomic hydrogen also have designations within their respective series, such as the Lyman series or Balmer series. Originally all spectral lines were classified into series of Principle series, Sharp series, and Diffuse series. These series exist across atoms of all elements and the Rydberg-Ritz combination principle is a formula that predicts the pattern of lines to be found in all atoms of the elements. For this reason, the NIST spectral line database contains a column for Ritz calculated lines. These series were later associated with suborbitals.

Line broadening and shift

A spectral line extends over a range of frequencies, not a single frequency (i.e., it has a nonzero linewidth). In addition, its center may be shifted from its nominal central wavelength. There are several reasons for this broadening and shift. These reasons may be divided into two general categories – broadening due to local conditions and broadening due to extended conditions. Broadening due to local conditions is due to effects which hold in a small region around the emitting element, usually small enough to assure local thermodynamic equilibrium. Broadening due to extended conditions may result from changes to the spectral distribution of the radiation as it traverses its path to the observer. It also may result from the combining of radiation from a number of regions which are far from each other.

Broadening due to local effects

Natural broadening

The uncertainty principle relates the lifetime of an excited state (due to spontaneous radiative decay or the Auger process) with the uncertainty of its energy. A short lifetime will have a large energy uncertainty and a broad emission. This broadening effect results in an unshifted Lorentzian profile. The natural broadening can be experimentally altered only to the extent that decay rates can be artificially suppressed or enhanced.[2]

Thermal Doppler broadening

The atoms in a gas which are emitting radiation will have a distribution of velocities. Each photon emitted will be "red"- or "blue"-shifted by the Doppler effect depending on the velocity of the atom relative to the observer. The higher the temperature of the gas, the wider the distribution of velocities in the gas. Since the spectral line is a combination of all of the emitted radiation, the higher the temperature of the gas, the broader the spectral line emitted from that gas. This broadening effect is described by a Gaussian profile and there is no associated shift.

Pressure broadening

The presence of nearby particles will affect the radiation emitted by an individual particle. There are two limiting cases by which this occurs:

  • Impact pressure broadening or collisional broadening: The collision of other particles with the emitting particle interrupts the emission process, and by shortening the characteristic time for the process, increases the uncertainty in the energy emitted (as occurs in natural broadening).[3] The duration of the collision is much shorter than the lifetime of the emission process. This effect depends on both the density and the temperature of the gas. The broadening effect is described by a Lorentzian profile and there may be an associated shift.
  • Quasistatic pressure broadening: The presence of other particles shifts the energy levels in the emitting particle, thereby altering the frequency of the emitted radiation. The duration of the influence is much longer than the lifetime of the emission process. This effect depends on the density of the gas, but is rather insensitive to temperature. The form of the line profile is determined by the functional form of the perturbing force with respect to distance from the perturbing particle. There may also be a shift in the line center. The general expression for the lineshape resulting from quasistatic pressure broadening is a 4-parameter generalization of the Gaussian distribution known as a stable distribution.[4]

Pressure broadening may also be classified by the nature of the perturbing force as follows:

  • Linear Stark broadening occurs via the linear Stark effect, which results from the interaction of an emitter with an electric field of a charged particle at a distance , causing a shift in energy that is linear in the field strength.
  • Resonance broadening occurs when the perturbing particle is of the same type as the emitting particle, which introduces the possibility of an energy exchange process.
  • Quadratic Stark broadening occurs via the quadratic Stark effect, which results from the interaction of an emitter with an electric field, causing a shift in energy that is quadratic in the field strength.
  • Van der Waals broadening occurs when the emitting particle is being perturbed by van der Waals forces. For the quasistatic case, a van der Waals profile[note 1] is often useful in describing the profile. The energy shift as a function of distance is given in the wings by e.g. the Lennard-Jones potential.

Inhomogeneous broadening

Inhomogeneous broadening is a general term for broadening because some emitting particles are in a different local environment from others, and therefore emit at a different frequency. This term is used especially for solids, where surfaces, grain boundaries, and stoichiometry variations can create a variety of local environments for a given atom to occupy. In liquids, the effects of inhomogeneous broadening is sometimes reduced by a process called motional narrowing.

Broadening due to non-local effects

Certain types of broadening are the result of conditions over a large region of space rather than simply upon conditions that are local to the emitting particle.

Opacity broadening

Electromagnetic radiation emitted at a particular point in space can be reabsorbed as it travels through space. This absorption depends on wavelength. The line is broadened because the photons at the line center have a greater reabsorption probability than the photons at the line wings. Indeed, the reabsorption near the line center may be so great as to cause a self reversal in which the intensity at the center of the line is less than in the wings. This process is also sometimes called self-absorption.

Macroscopic Doppler broadening

Radiation emitted by a moving source is subject to Doppler shift due to a finite line-of-sight velocity projection. If different parts of the emitting body have different velocities (along the line of sight), the resulting line will be broadened, with the line width proportional to the width of the velocity distribution. For example, radiation emitted from a distant rotating body, such as a star, will be broadened due to the line-of-sight variations in velocity on opposite sides of the star. The greater the rate of rotation, the broader the line. Another example is an imploding plasma shell in a Z-pinch.

Radiative broadening

Radiative broadening of the spectral absorption profile occurs because the on-resonance absorption in the center of the profile is saturated at much lower intensities than the off-resonant wings.Therefore, as intensity rises, absorption in the wings rises faster than absorption in the center, leading to a broadening of the profile. Radiative broadening occurs even at very low light intensities.

Combined effects

Each of these mechanisms can act in isolation or in combination with others. Assuming each effect is independent, the observed line profile is a convolution of the line profiles of each mechanism. For example, a combination of the thermal Doppler broadening and the impact pressure broadening yields a Voigt profile.

However, the different line broadening mechanisms are not always independent. For example, the collisional effects and the motional Doppler shifts can act in a coherent manner, resulting under some conditions even in a collisional narrowing, known as the Dicke effect.

Spectral lines of chemical elements

Visible light

For each element, the following table shows the spectral lines which show up in the visible spectrum, from about 400nm-700nm.

Spectral lines of the chemical elements
Element Z Symbol Spectral lines
hydrogen 1 H Hydrogen spectrum visible
helium 2 He Helium spectrum visible
lithium 3 Li Lithium spectrum visible
beryllium 4 Be Beryllium spectrum visible
boron 5 B Boron spectrum visible
carbon 6 C Carbon spectrum visible
nitrogen 7 N Nitrogen spectrum visible
oxygen 8 O Oxygen spectrum visible
fluorine 9 F Fluorine spectrum visible
neon 10 Ne Neon spectrum visible
sodium 11 Na Sodium spectrum visible
magnesium 12 Mg Magnesium spectrum visible
aluminium 13 Al Aluminium spectrum visible
silicon 14 Si Silicon spectrum visible
phosphorus 15 P Phosphorus spectrum visible
sulfur 16 S Sulfur spectrum visible
chlorine 17 Cl Chlorine spectrum visible
argon 18 Ar Argon spectrum visible
potassium 19 K Potassium spectrum visible
calcium 20 Ca Calcium spectrum visible
scandium 21 Sc Scandium spectrum visible
titanium 22 Ti Titanium spectrum visible
vanadium 23 V Vanadium spectrum visible
chromium 24 Cr Chromium spectrum visible
manganese 25 Mn Manganese spectrum visible
iron 26 Fe Iron spectrum visible
cobalt 27 Co Cobalt spectrum visible
nickel 28 Ni Nickel spectrum visible
copper 29 Cu Copper spectrum visible
zinc 30 Zn Zinc spectrum visible
gallium 31 Ga Gallium spectrum visible
germanium 32 Ge Germanium spectrum visible
arsenic 33 As Arsenic spectrum visible
selenium 34 Se Selenium spectrum visible
bromine 35 Br Bromine spectrum visible
krypton 36 Kr Krypton spectrum visible
rubidium 37 Rb Rubidium spectrum visible
strontium 38 Sr Strontium spectrum visible
yttrium 39 Y Yttrium spectrum visible
zirconium 40 Zr Zirconium spectrum visible
niobium 41 Nb Niobium spectrum visible
molybdenum 42 Mo Molybdenum spectrum visible
technetium 43 Tc Technetium spectrum visible
ruthenium 44 Ru Ruthenium spectrum visible
rhodium 45 Rh Rhodium spectrum visible
palladium 46 Pd Palladium spectrum visible
silver 47 Ag Silver spectrum visible
cadmium 48 Cd Cadmium spectrum visible
indium 49 In Indium spectrum visible
tin 50 Sn Tin spectrum visible
antimony 51 Sb Antimony spectrum visible
tellurium 52 Te Tellurium spectrum visible
iodine 53 I Iodine spectrum visible
xenon 54 Xe Xenon spectrum visible
caesium 55 Cs Caesium spectrum visible
barium 56 Ba Barium spectrum visible
lanthanum 57 La Lanthanum spectrum visible
cerium 58 Ce Cerium spectrum visible
praseodymium 59 Pr Praseodymium spectrum visible
neodymium 60 Nd Neodymium spectrum visible
promethium 61 Pm Promethium spectrum visible
samarium 62 Sm Samarium spectrum visible
europium 63 Eu Europium spectrum visible
gadolinium 64 Gd Gadolinium spectrum visible
terbium 65 Tb Terbium spectrum visible
dysprosium 66 Dy Dysprosium spectrum visible
holmium 67 Ho Holmium spectrum visible
erbium 68 Er Erbium spectrum visible
thulium 69 Tm Thulium spectrum visible
ytterbium 70 Yb Ytterbium spectrum visible
lutetium 71 Lu Lutetium spectrum visible
hafnium 72 Hf Hafnium spectrum visible
tantalum 73 Ta Tantalum spectrum visible
tungsten 74 W Tungsten spectrum visible
rhenium 75 Re Rhenium spectrum visible
osmium 76 Os Osmium spectrum visible
iridium 77 Ir Iridium spectrum visible
platinum 78 Pt Platinum spectrum visible
gold 79 Au Gold spectrum visible
mercury 80 Hg Mercury spectrum visible
thallium 81 Tl Thallium spectrum visible
lead 82 Pb Lead spectrum visible
bismuth 83 Bi Bismuth spectrum visible
polonium 84 Po Polonium spectrum visible
radon 86 Rn Radon spectrum visible
radium 88 Ra Radium spectrum visible
actinium 89 Ac Actinium spectrum visible
thorium 90 Th Thorium spectrum visible
protactinium 91 Pa Protactinium spectrum visible
uranium 92 U Uranium spectrum visible
neptunium 93 Np Neptunium spectrum visible
plutonium 94 Pu Plutonium spectrum visible
americium 95 Am Americium spectrum visible
curium 96 Cm Curium spectrum visible
berkelium 97 Bk Berkelium spectrum visible
californium 98 Cf Californium spectrum visible
einsteinium 99 Es Einsteinium spectrum visible

Other wavelengths

Without qualification, "spectral lines" generally implies that one is talking about lines with wavelengths which fall into the range of the visible spectrum. However, there are also many spectral lines which show up at wavelengths outside this range. At the much shorter wavelengths of x-rays, these are known as characteristic X-rays. Other frequencies have atomic spectral lines as well, such as the Lyman series, which falls in the ultraviolet range.

See also


  1. ^ "van der Waals profile" appears as lowercase in almost all sources, such as: Statistical mechanics of the liquid surface by Clive Anthony Croxton, 1980, A Wiley-Interscience publication, ISBN 0-471-27663-4, ISBN 978-0-471-27663-0; and in Journal of technical physics, Volume 36, by Instytut Podstawowych Problemów Techniki (Polska Akademia Nauk), publisher: Państwowe Wydawn. Naukowe., 1995,


  1. ^ Rothman, L.S.; Gordon, I.E.; Babikov, Y.; Barbe, A.; Chris Benner, D.; Bernath, P.F.; Birk, M.; Bizzocchi, L.; Boudon, V.; Brown, L.R.; Campargue, A.; Chance, K.; Cohen, E.A.; Coudert, L.H.; Devi, V.M.; Drouin, B.J.; Fayt, A.; Flaud, J.-M.; Gamache, R.R.; Harrison, J.J.; Hartmann, J.-M.; Hill, C.; Hodges, J.T.; Jacquemart, D.; Jolly, A.; Lamouroux, J.; Le Roy, R.J.; Li, G.; Long, D.A.; et al. (2013). "The HITRAN2012 molecular spectroscopic database". Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer. 130: 4–50. Bibcode:2013JQSRT.130....4R. doi:10.1016/j.jqsrt.2013.07.002. ISSN 0022-4073.
  2. ^ For example, in the following article, decay was suppressed via a microwave cavity, thus reducing the natural broadening: Gabrielse, Gerald; H. Dehmelt (1985). "Observation of Inhibited Spontaneous Emission". Physical Review Letters. 55 (1): 67–70. Bibcode:1985PhRvL..55...67G. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.55.67. PMID 10031682.
  3. ^ "Collisional Broadening". Fas.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2015-09-24.
  4. ^ Peach, G. (1981). "Theory of the pressure broadening and shift of spectral lines". Advances in Physics. 30 (3): 367–474. Bibcode:1981AdPhy..30..367P. doi:10.1080/00018738100101467. Archived from the original on 2013-01-14.

Further reading

  • Griem, Hans R. (1997). Principles of Plasma Spectroscopy. Cambridge: University Press. ISBN 0-521-45504-9.
  • Griem, Hans R. (1974). Spectral Line Broadening by Plasmas. New York: Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-302850-7.
  • Griem, Hans R. (1964). Plasma Spectroscopy. New York: McGraw-Hill book Company.

Bandwidth has several related meanings:

Bandwidth (signal processing) or analog bandwidth, frequency bandwidth or radio bandwidth, a measure of the width of a range of frequencies, measured in hertz

Bandwidth (computing), the rate of data transfer, bit rate or throughput, measured in bits per second (bit/s)

Spectral linewidth, the width of an atomic or molecular spectral line, measured in HertzBandwidth may also refer to:

Bandwidth (company), an American communications provider

Bandwidth (linear algebra), the width of the non-zero terms around the diagonal of a matrix

In statistics kernel density estimation, the width of the convolution kernel used

In language expectancy theory, a normative expected range of linguistic behavior

In business jargon, the resources needed to complete a task or project

Bandwidth (radio program), a Canadian radio program

Graph bandwidth, in graph theory

Coherence bandwidth, a frequency range over which a channel can be considered "flat"

Power bandwidth of an amplifier, a frequency range for which power output exceeds a given fraction of full rated power

Equivalent width

The equivalent width of a spectral line is a measure of the area of the line on a plot of intensity versus wavelength. It is found by forming a rectangle with a height equal to that of continuum emission, and finding the width such that the area of the rectangle is equal to the area in the spectral line. It is a measure of the strength of spectral features that is primarily used in astronomy.

Explicit symmetry breaking

In theoretical physics, explicit symmetry breaking is the breaking of a symmetry of a theory by terms in its defining equations of motion (most typically, to the Lagrangian or the Hamiltonian) that do not respect the symmetry. Usually this term is used in situations where these symmetry-breaking terms are small, so that the symmetry is approximately respected by the theory. An example is the spectral line splitting in the Zeeman effect, due to a magnetic interaction perturbation in the Hamiltonian of the atoms involved.

Explicit symmetry breaking differs from spontaneous symmetry breaking. In the latter, the defining equations respect the symmetry but the ground state (vacuum) of the theory breaks it.Explicit symmetry breaking is also associated with electromagnetic radiation. A system of accelerated charges results in electromagnetic radiation when the geometric symmetry of the electric field in free space is explicitly broken by the associated electrodynamic structure under time varying excitation of the given system. This is quite evident in an antenna where the electric lines of field curl around or have rotational geometry around the radiating terminals in contrast to linear geometric orientation within a pair of transmission lines which does not radiate even under time varying excitation.

HD 64760

HD 64760 (J Puppis) is a class B0.5 supergiant star in the constellation Puppis. Its apparent magnitude is 4.24 and it is approximately 1,660 light years away based on parallax.

The stellar wind structure of HD 64760 has been extensively studied. Its spectrum shows classic P Cygni profiles indicative of strong mass loss and high-velocity winds, but the spectral line profiles are also variable. The variation shows a 2.4 day modulation which is caused by non-radial pulsation of the star itself. Other pulsation periods around 4.81 hours have also been identified.HD 64760 rotates rapidly. Despite its large size it completes a rotation every 4.1 days compared to every 27 days for the sun. This causes the star to be an oblate spheroid, with the equatorial radius 20% larger than the polar radius. It is estimated that the temperature of the photosphere is 23,300 K at the equator and 29,000 K at the poles, due to gravity darkening. In addition, the surface has temperature variations due to its pulsations. The effective temperature for the star as a whole is 24,600 K, to match the bolometric luminosity of 155,000 L☉.

H I region

An HI region or H I region (read H one) is a cloud in the interstellar medium composed of neutral atomic hydrogen (HI), in addition to the local abundance of helium and other elements. (H is the chemical symbol for hydrogen, and "I" is the Roman numeral. It is customary in astronomy to use the Roman numeral I for neutral atoms, II for singly-ionised—HII is H+ in other sciences—III for doubly-ionised, e.g. OIII is O++, etc.) These regions do not emit detectable visible light (except in spectral lines from elements other than hydrogen) but are observed by the 21-cm (1,420 MHz) region spectral line. This line has a very low transition probability, so requires large amounts of hydrogen gas for it to be seen. At ionization fronts, where HI regions collide with expanding ionized gas (such as an H II region), the latter glows brighter than it otherwise would. The degree of ionization in an HI region is very small at around 10−4 (i.e. one particle in 10,000). At typical interstellar pressures in galaxies like the Milky Way, HI regions are most stable at temperatures of either below 100 K or above several thousand K; gas between these temperatures heats or cools very quickly to reach one of the stable temperature regimes. Within one of these phases, the gas is usually considered isothermal, except near an expanding H II region. Near an expanding H II region is a dense HI region, separated from the undisturbed HI region by a shock front and from the H II region by an ionization front.

Hydrogen line

The hydrogen line, 21-centimeter line or H I line refers to the electromagnetic radiation spectral line that is created by a change in the energy state of neutral hydrogen atoms. This electromagnetic radiation is at the precise frequency of 1420405751.7667±0.0009 Hz, which is equivalent to the vacuum wavelength of 21.1061140542 cm in free space. This wavelength falls within the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum, and it is observed frequently in radio astronomy, since those radio waves can penetrate the large clouds of interstellar cosmic dust that are opaque to visible light.

The microwaves of the hydrogen line come from the atomic transition of an electron between the two hyperfine levels of the hydrogen 1s ground state that have an energy difference of ≈ 5.87433 µeV. It is called the spin-flip transition. The frequency, ν, of the quanta that are emitted by this transition between two different energy levels is given by the Planck–Einstein relation E = hν. According to that relation, the photon energy of a 1,420,405,751.7667 Hz photon is ≈ 5.87433 µeV. The constant of proportionality, h, is known as the Planck constant.

James Clerk Maxwell Telescope

The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) is a submillimetre-wavelength telescope at Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii. The telescope is near the summit of Mauna Kea at 13,425 feet (4,092 m). Its primary mirror is 15 metres (16.4 yards) across: it is the largest single-dish telescope that operates in submillimetre wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum (far-infrared to microwave). Scientists use it to study the Solar System, interstellar dust and gas, and distant galaxies.

The JCMT started operations in 1987, and was funded until February 2015 by a partnership between the United Kingdom and Canada, and the Netherlands. It was operated by the Joint Astronomy Centre and was named in honour of mathematical physicist James Clerk Maxwell. In March 2015 the operation of the JCMT was taken over by the East Asian Observatory.The telescope was combined with the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory next to it, to form the first submillimetre interferometer. This success was important in pushing ahead the construction of the later Submillimeter Array and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array interferometers. In recent years it also takes part in Event Horizon Telescope observations.


Krypton (from Ancient Greek: κρυπτός, translit. kryptos "the hidden one") is a chemical element with symbol Kr and atomic number 36. It is a member of group 18 (noble gases) elements. A colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, krypton occurs in trace amounts in the atmosphere and is often used with other rare gases in fluorescent lamps. With rare exceptions, krypton is chemically inert.

Krypton, like the other noble gases, is used in lighting and photography. Krypton light has many spectral lines, and krypton plasma is useful in bright, high-powered gas lasers (krypton ion and excimer lasers), each of which resonates and amplifies a single spectral line. Krypton fluoride also makes a useful laser medium. From 1960 to 1983, the official length of a meter was defined by the 605 nm wavelength of the orange spectral line of krypton-86, because of the high power and relative ease of operation of krypton discharge tubes.

Low-ionization nuclear emission-line region

A low-ionization nuclear emission-line region (LINER) is a type of galactic nucleus that is defined by its spectral line emission. The spectra typically include line emission from weakly ionized or neutral atoms, such as O, O+, N+, and S+. Conversely, the spectral line emission from strongly ionized atoms, such as O++, Ne++, and He+, is relatively weak. The class of galactic nuclei was first identified by Timothy Heckman in the third of a series of papers on the spectra of galactic nuclei that were published in 1980.

Lyman-alpha line

In physics, the Lyman-alpha line, sometimes written as Ly-α line, is a spectral line of hydrogen, or more generally of one-electron ions, in the Lyman series, emitted when the electron falls from the n = 2 orbital to the n = 1 orbital, where n is the principal quantum number. In hydrogen, its wavelength of 1215.67 angstroms (121.567 nm or 1.21567×10−7 m), corresponding to a frequency of 2.47×1015 hertz, places the Lyman-alpha line in the vacuum ultraviolet part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is absorbed by air. Lyman-alpha astronomy must therefore ordinarily be carried out by satellite-borne instruments, except for extremely distant sources whose redshifts allow the hydrogen line to penetrate the atmosphere.

Because of fine structure perturbations, the Lyman-alpha line splits into a doublet with wavelengths 1215.668 and 1215.674 angstroms. Specifically, because of the electron's spin-orbit interaction, the stationary eigenstates of the perturbed Hamiltonian must be labeled by the total angular momentum j of the electron (spin plus orbital), not just the orbital angular momentum l. In the n = 2 orbital, there are two possible states, j = 1/2 and j = 3/2, resulting in a spectral doublet. The j = 3/2 state is of higher energy (less negative) and so is energetically farther from the n = 1 orbital to which it is transitioning. Thus, the j = 3/2 state is associated with the more energetic (shorter wavelength) spectral line in the doublet.The less energetic spectral line has been measured at 2466061413187035(10) Hz, or 1215.673123130217(5) Å. The line has also been measured in antihydrogen.A K-alpha line, or Kα, analogous to the Lyman-alpha line for hydrogen, occurs in the high-energy induced emission spectra of all chemical elements, since it results from the same electron transition as in hydrogen. The equation for the frequency of this line (usually in the X-ray range for heavier elements) uses the same base-frequency as Lyman-alpha, but multiplied by a (Z − 1)2 factor to account for the differing atomic numbers (Z) of heavier elements, as approximated by Moseley's law.The Lyman-alpha line is most simply described by the {n,m} = {1,2...} solutions to the empirical Rydberg formula for hydrogen's Lyman spectral series. (The Lyman-alpha frequency is produced by multiplying the Rydberg frequency for the atomic mass of hydrogen, RM (see Rydberg constant), by a factor of (1/1)2 − (1/2)2 = 3/4.) Empirically, the Rydberg equation is in turn modeled by the semi-classical Bohr model of the atom.

Mercury-manganese star

A mercury-manganese star is a type of chemically peculiar star with a prominent spectral line at 398.4 nm, due to absorption from ionized mercury. These stars are of spectral type B8, B9, or A0, corresponding to surface temperatures between about 10,000 and 15,000 K, with two distinctive characteristics:

An atmospheric excess of elements like phosphorus, manganese, gallium, strontium, yttrium, zirconium, platinum and mercury.

A lack of a strong dipole magnetic field.Their rotation is relatively slow, and as a consequence their atmosphere is relatively calm. It is thought, but has not been proven, that some types of atoms sink under the force of gravity, while others are lifted towards the exterior of the star by radiation pressure, making a heterogeneous atmosphere.

NGC 4457

NGC 4457 is a spiral galaxy located about 55 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo. It is also classified as a LINER galaxy, a class of active galaxy defined by their spectral line emissions. NGC 4457 Is inclined by about 33°. It was discovered by astronomer William Herschel on February 23, 1784. Despite being listed in the Virgo Cluster Catalog as VCC 1145, NGC 4457 is a member of the Virgo II Groups which form an extension of the Virgo cluster.NGC 4457 may have had a recent minor merger with another galaxy.

NGC 4762

NGC 4762 is an edge-on lenticular galaxy in the constellation Virgo. It is at a distance of 60 million light years and is a member of the Virgo Cluster. The edge-on view of this particular galaxy, originally considered to be a barred spiral galaxy, makes it difficult to determine its true shape, but it is considered that the galaxy consists of four main components — a central bulge, a bar, a thick disc and an outer ring. The galaxy's disc is asymmetric and warped, which could be explained by NGC 4762 mergering with a smaller galaxy in the past. The remains of this former companion may then have settled within NGC 4762's disc, redistributing the gas and stars and so changing the disc's morphology.NGC 4762 contains a Liner-type active galactic nucleus, a highly energetic central region. This nucleus is detectable due to its particular spectral line emission, allowing astronomers to measure the composition of the region.NGC 4762 forms a non-interacting pair with the galaxy NGC 4754.

NGC 5474

NGC 5474 is a peculiar dwarf galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major. It is one of several companion galaxies of the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101), a grand-design spiral galaxy.

Among the Pinwheel Galaxy's companions, this galaxy is the closest to the Pinwheel Galaxy itself. The gravitational interaction between NGC 5474 and the Pinwheel Galaxy has strongly distorted the former. As a result, the disk is offset relative to the nucleus. The star formation in this galaxy (as traced by hydrogen spectral line emission) is also offset from the nucleus. NGC 5474 shows some signs of a spiral structure. As a result, this galaxy is often classified as a dwarf spiral galaxy, a relatively rare group of dwarf galaxies.

Primeval Structure Telescope

The Primeval Structure Telescope (PaST), also called 21 Centimetre Array (21CMA), is a Chinese radio telescope array designed to detect the earliest luminous objects in the universe, including the first stars, supernova explosions, and black holes. All of these objects were strong sources of ultraviolet radiation, so they ionised the material surrounding them. The structure of this reionisation reflects the overall density structure at the redshift of luminous-object formation.

PaST will consist an array of some ten-thousand log-periodic antennas spread over several square kilometers. It will capture a detailed radio image of the sky in the range of 1420 megahertz. The telescope is built on the high plateau of Ulastai in the west of Xinjiang province, a remote area away from most television and radios signals that may interfere the weak 21 cm background signals.

The hydrogen line, 21 centimeter line or HI line refers to the electromagnetic radiation spectral line that is created by a change in the energy state of neutral hydrogen atoms. This electromagnetic radiation is at the precise frequency of 1420.40575177 MHz, which is equivalent to the vacuum wavelength of 21.10611405413 cm in free space. This wavelength or frequency falls within the microwave radio region of the electromagnetic spectrum, and it is observed frequently in radio astronomy, since those radio waves can penetrate the large clouds of interstellar cosmic dust that are opaque to visible light.

The microwaves of the hydrogen line come from the atomic transition between the two hyperfine levels of the hydrogen 1s ground state with an energy difference of 5.87433 µeV.[1] The frequency of the quanta that are emitted by this transition between two different energy levels is given by Planck's equation.

Spectral line shape

Spectral line shape describes the form of a feature, observed in spectroscopy, corresponding to an energy change in an atom, molecule or ion. Ideal line shapes include Lorentzian, Gaussian and Voigt functions, whose parameters are the line position, maximum height and half-width. Actual line shapes are determined principally by Doppler, collision and proximity broadening. For each system the half-width of the shape function varies with temperature, pressure (or concentration) and phase. A knowledge of shape function is needed for spectroscopic curve fitting and deconvolution.


Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and electromagnetic radiation. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to include any interaction with radiative energy as a function of its wavelength or frequency, predominantly in the electromagnetic spectrum, though matter waves and acoustic waves can also be considered forms of radiative energy; recently, with tremendous difficulty, even gravitational waves have been associated with a spectral signature in the context of LIGO and laser interferometry. Spectroscopic data are often represented by an emission spectrum, a plot of the response of interest as a function of wavelength or frequency.

Spectroscopy, primarily in the electromagnetic spectrum, is a fundamental exploratory tool in the fields of physics, chemistry, and astronomy, allowing the composition and structure of matter to be investigated at molecular scale, macro scale, and over astronomical distances. Important applications arise from biomedical spectroscopy in the areas of tissue analysis and medical imaging.

Water hole (radio)

The waterhole, or water hole, is an especially quiet band of the electromagnetic spectrum between 1.42 and 1.67 gigahertz, corresponding to wavelengths of 21 and 18 centimeters respectively. It is a popular observing frequency used by radio telescopes in radio astronomy. The term was coined by Bernard Oliver in 1971. The strongest hydroxyl radical spectral line radiates at 18 centimeters, and hydrogen at 21 centimeters. These two molecules, which combined form water, are widespread in interstellar gas, and their presence absorbs radio noise at these frequencies. Therefore, the spectrum between these frequencies form a "quiet" channel in the interstellar radio noise background. Bernard M. Oliver theorized that the waterhole would be an obvious band for communication with extraterrestrial intelligence, hence the name, which is a form of pun: in English, a watering hole is a vernacular reference to a common place to meet and talk. Several programs involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, including SETI@home, search in the waterhole radio frequencies.

Zeeman effect

The Zeeman effect (; Dutch pronunciation: [ˈzeːmɑn]), named after the Dutch physicist Pieter Zeeman, is the effect of splitting a spectral line into several components in the presence of a static magnetic field. It is analogous to the Stark effect, the splitting of a spectral line into several components in the presence of an electric field. Also similar to the Stark effect, transitions between different components have, in general, different intensities, with some being entirely forbidden (in the dipole approximation), as governed by the selection rules.

Since the distance between the Zeeman sub-levels is a function of magnetic field strength, this effect can be used to measure magnetic field strength, e.g. that of the Sun and other stars or in laboratory plasmas.

The Zeeman effect is very important in applications such as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, electron spin resonance spectroscopy, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and Mössbauer spectroscopy. It may also be utilized to improve accuracy in atomic absorption spectroscopy.

A theory about the magnetic sense of birds assumes that a protein in the retina is changed due to the Zeeman effect.When the spectral lines are absorption lines, the effect is called inverse Zeeman effect.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.