From the Sun to Earth: The Incredible Journey of Helium's Discovery

How Helium was Discovered

How helium discovered, uses and facts
Pic Credit: Photo by Lad Fury on Pexels

Helium was first discovered in 1868 during a solar eclipse by French astronomer Jules Janssen and English astronomer Joseph Norman Lockyer. While observing the Sun's spectrum, they noticed a yellow spectral line that couldn't be attributed to any known element on Earth. They concluded that a new element must exist, which they named helium after the Greek god of the sun, Helios.

Uses of Helium

  • Helium is widely used as a lifting gas in balloons and airships due to its low density.
  • It is used in cryogenics to cool superconducting magnets in MRI machines and particle accelerators.
  • Helium is utilized in welding applications to provide an inert atmosphere.
  • It is used in breathing mixtures for deep-sea diving and medical treatments.
  • Helium is crucial in the production of semiconductors and fiber optics.

How Helium is Generated?

Helium is generated through the natural radioactive decay of heavy elements such as uranium and thorium in the Earth's crust. Over millions of years, helium migrates upward and accumulates in natural gas deposits. It is extracted from natural gas through a process called fractional distillation.

Is Helium Dangerous?

While helium is generally considered safe, inhaling large quantities of helium can be dangerous as it can displace oxygen in the lungs, leading to asphyxiation. Additionally, helium is a non-flammable and non-toxic gas, making it safer than many other gases.

20 Interesting Facts about Helium: Do you Know why voice changes after inhaling Helium?

  1. Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe after hydrogen.
  2. It is the only element that was first discovered outside of Earth.
  3. Helium is one of the few elements that remains liquid at extremely low temperatures, close to absolute zero.
  4. Liquid helium is used to cool the superconducting magnets in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines.
  5. Helium is lighter than air, which is why it is used to inflate balloons and airships.
  6. The voice-changing effect of inhaling helium occurs because sound travels faster through helium than through air.
  7. Helium was named after the Greek god of the sun, Helios.
  8. Helium is chemically inert, meaning it does not readily react with other elements.
  9. Helium is produced through nuclear fusion in stars, including the Sun.
  10. The United States is the world's largest producer of helium.
  11. Helium is used in gas chromatography to separate and analyze chemical compounds.
  12. The boiling point of helium is the lowest of all the elements.
  13. Helium is used as a shielding gas in arc welding to prevent oxidation of the weld pool.
  14. Helium is commonly mixed with oxygen for deep-sea diving to prevent nitrogen narcosis.
  15. Helium is found in natural gas deposits, typically in concentrations ranging from 0.3% to 7%.
  16. Helium is used in cryogenics to maintain temperatures as low as -269°C (-452°F).
  17. The largest helium reserves are found in the United States, Russia, and Algeria.
  18. Helium is used in gas chromatography to separate and analyze chemical compounds.
  19. Helium is the only element that was discovered in space before being found on Earth.
  20. Helium has the lowest boiling point of all the elements, making it essential in cryogenic applications.


I hold a doctorate in chemistry and have expertise in the intersection of organic and medicinal chemistry. My work primarily revolves around developing bioactive molecules with medicinal potential.

Previous Post Next Post

Contact Form