How Did Helium Get Its Name?

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Helium was named for Helios, the Greek god of the Sun. This element was first discovered on the Sun in 1868 and was named by an English astronomer, Sir Norman Lockyer.

Helium was discovered after French astronomer Pierre-Jules-César Janssen noticed a yellow line around the Sun while studying a solar eclipse. Lockyer knew the wavelength of the color of this line, 587.49 nanometers, was not associated with any known elements on Earth and named this new element helium. Helium was not discovered on Earth until 1895.

Helium, an unreactive and non-toxic gas, only makes up approximately 0.0005% of Earth’s atmosphere, but it is the second most abundant element in the universe behind only hydrogen.