Yembu
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Hello. Please I'd like to fully understand the relationship between electron transitions in the hydrogen emission spectrum and the actual structure of the hydrogen atoms.
I'm asking because I'm reasonably sure that hydrogen atoms have only n=1 energy levels, but the spectrum contains transitions to n=2 and n=3, and others from n=4 and n=5! What do these transitions represent in the hydrogen atoms?
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KombatWombat
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Hydrogen has energy levels from n = 1 to infinity - it's just that n = 1 has the lowest energy, so that's the one that is occupied unless you give the atom lots of energy.
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Yembu
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Okay so what do the transitions represent? I mean, during the experiment, where did the high energy electrons come from?? And please, can an electron be situated in the n=2 orbital while the n=1 is empty?
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KombatWombat
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You basically have a glass cylinder filled with hydrogen gas, and pass a current through it. This gives the electrons a load of energy, and they absorb this energy and go to a higher level. Then, at some point they return to a lower energy level and release light which has the same energy as the difference between the two energy levels.

Because only certain energy levels are allowed (see: Quantum mechanics!) you only see these transitions at specific energies.

Yes, an electron can absolutely be in the n=2 level while n=1 is empty. 'In' makes it sound like the orbital is something physical/tangible - it isn't! All an orbital is, is a way of describing where an electron is around an atom that are acceptable solutions to the Schrödinger equation.
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Yembu
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You're right bro. I read up on quantum chemistry and I understand it really well now. Wow...it's like Richard Feynman said:
Particles at a subatomic level behave like nothing we can visualize!!
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