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Hydrogen line UPSC NOTE

 

  • The hydrogen line is an important instrument in modern astronomy — from studying distant stars to looking for extraterrestrial intelligence (if it exists).

  • Each hydrogen atom is made of one proton and one electron. 

  • Both these particles have a property called spin

  • Colloquially, we can say the spin can point up or down at any given time. 

  • When the spins of both particles are pointing up (or down), they are said to be aligned

  • When they are pointing in opposite directions, they are anti-aligned.

  • When the spins are anti-aligned, the atom will have more energy than if they are aligned

  • The atom will shed this ‘excess’ energy when the electron flips its spin, emitting electromagnetic radiation of wavelength 21 cm.

  • In some detectors, this emission shows as a characteristic line, thus the name ‘hydrogen line’.

  • Scientists discovered this emission in 1951 and it transformed radio astronomy. 

  • By looking for this emission, they could detect clouds of cold, neutral hydrogen atomic gas in interstellar space

  • Soon after, they were able to create a map of the Milky Way galaxy for the first time, and discover its spiral arms.

  • Today, astronomers are also using the 21 cm as a probe to spot the first light emitted by the universe’s earliest galaxies

  • Because the emission doesn’t require complicated technologies to spot, astronomers also think it can be used to send information across space that, some day, an alien civilisation might detect

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Hydrogen line UPSC NOTE
Hydrogen line UPSC NOTE
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