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Which of these elements was discovered in space before it was found on Earth?



  The bright yellow line of helium in a spectrograph
McZusatz / Wikimedia

Answer: Helium

When it comes to discovering, identifying and investigating chemical elements, just about every element known to man is, was earthly.

One curious exception is the discovery of helium. Before we discovered and identified it on Earth, scientists in space came across it. Helium was first observed in 1

868 during a total solar eclipse in the spectrum of the chromosphere of the sun – the pale yellow line can be seen here.

The discovery of the solar eclipse is often credited to the French astronomer Jules Janssen and the English astronomer Norman Lockyer, but Lockyer was the first to suggest it was a new element. Lockyer and the English chemist Edward Frankland called it helium after the Greek sun god Helios.

It was not until 1895 that a terrestrial sample was found that was to be investigated when the Swedish chemists Per Teodor Cleve and Nils Abraham Langlet found helium gas from uranium ore.


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