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Mysterious Hydrogen Atoms Found In The Upper Layer Of The Earth's Atmosphere And They Should Not Exist There

First Posted: Dec 12, 2016 06:13 AM EST
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Scientists discovered the existence of the hydrogen atoms in the thermosphere, which is the upper layer of the Earth's atmosphere.
(Photo : NASA/Handout/Getty Images)

Scientists from the University of Illinois have found hot hydrogen (H) atoms in the upper layer of the Earth's atmosphere, which is known as the thermosphere. In Physics, such existence of the hydrogen particles must not be there on the said layer.

The findings of the discovery were printed in Nature Communications. The study was led by researchers from University of Illinois College of Engineering. The research could provide information on the understanding of how Earth atmosphere works. This includes how hydrogen cycles around the planet Earth and how it protects the planet. It could also give data on how to protect the technology from harsh space weather like the solar storms.

Lara Waldrop, the lead author of the study from the University of Illinois, explained that hot H atoms had been theorized to exist at very high altitudes that are about many thousand kilometers. On the other hand, in their study, they exist as low as 250 kilometers (155 miles).

This surprised the researchers. Waldrop also said that the result of the study indicates that current atmospheric models are missing some key physics that impacts various studies that could range from atmospheric escape to the thermal structure of the upper atmosphere.

In the study, the researchers used the NASA's Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) satellite. The team determined the number of hydrogen atoms in the upper atmosphere. This is because the atomic hydrogen spread the Sun's ultraviolet radiation. They gauged the amount of light using the TIMED satellite and could gauge the abundance and the spatial distribution of hydrogen, according to Science Alert.

On the other hand, when the researchers got their data, they were surprised to know that there were hot hydrogen atoms on the thermosphere, which were never supposed to be in the layer. Such existence of the hydrogen atoms in the thermosphere remains to be a mystery and a puzzle to figure out.

hydrogen atom is an atom of the chemical element hydrogen, which is about 75 percent of the elemental mass of the Universe. The isolated hydrogen atoms on Earth are rare. With this, the hydrogen merges with other compounds or with itself to produce ordinary hydrogen gas.

The understanding of hydrogen atoms is significant to the history of quantum mechanics. The hydrogen atoms are also important in Physics. They act as a shield for the planet Earth from solar flares and protect objects such as satellites against the tough space environment.

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