The Sun had never before been observed using spectroscopy until Lockyer adapted his telescope to utilise a spectroscope.

Bright emission lines from prominences were recorded in 1868 and then tests carried out at the College of Chemistry in London were made to reproduce the lines. It was impossible to find the source for the strong yellow line and thus in 1870 Lockyer suggested that is was due to a hypothetical element that he named `Helium', after the greek Sun god `Helios'.

Twenty five years later, in 1895, William Ramsay confirmed the existence of Helium when he managed to isolate it from the mineral Cleveite.

Lockyer was later knighted for this discovery.

Helium (He) is the second most abundant element in the universe after Hydrogen. It has an atomic mass of 4 and an atomic number 2.

Helium filled airship

Archaeoastronomy Astrophysics Eclipses Knighthood NATURE
Observatory Sir Norman Lockyer Solar Research Stellar Research Teacher

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