Friday, March 2, 2012

Profiles of the periodic table: Neon

Via Wikimedia Commons.

Neon is one of the six noble gases. The average neon atom is made up of ten protons and ten electrons. Its first shell holds two electrons and its outermost shell holds eight. It has an atomic mass of about 20.180. Its atomic number is (obviously) ten.

A neon atom. Via Wikimedia Commons.
Weekly Element Joke: A game of hide and seek: Argon: I found you, neon! Neon: How did you find me? Argon: I think it’s because of your glow.

Neon glowing reddish-orange.
Via Wikimedia Commons.

Neon also can glow if it is inside a glass tube and a current of electricity flows through it. [Ed. note: The voltage through the tube makes the electrons in the neon atoms excited, and after the electrons' kinetic, or motion, energy increases, they fall back into a relaxed state and release packets of energy called photons at a specific wavelength of visible light.] Neon’s color when it glows is an orangey-red. If you see other colors in a “neon” sign, they are from other gases, like argon.

Jean Picard, via Wikipedia.
Neon was discovered in 1898 by two chemists by the names of William Ramsay and Morris W. Travers in London, England. [Ed. note: They also identified xenon and krypton]. But the first person to record seeing it glow was Jean Picard, a French astronomer, in 1675!

William Ramsay, via
Wikimedia Commons.
Neon’s symbol is Ne, and it’s name means “new gas” [Ed note: “neo” means “new”]. Even though neon is the fourth most common element in the universe, the earth’s atmosphere is only 0.0018% neon. 

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