Hydrogens Place in the Universe and Astronomical Sciences

The element hydrogen is unique amongst all the elements and chemicals in the universe. It is the smallest and lightest element with a nucleus of a single proton. Despite its small size, hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, and accounts for almost 75% of the universe’s entire mass.

Whilst space is often referred to as a vacuum’, this is a misnomer since hydrogen gas exists abundantly in space. It is interesting that despite the universal abundance of hydrogen, its presence on Earth itself is relatively small in comparison with the main atmospheric gases of oxygen and nitrogen. This is because the light weight of the hydrogen molecule enables it to escape the Earth’s gravity and travel into space.

Nonetheless, larger planetary bodies and stars with high gravitational forces contain hydrogen of a very high density, indeed it is hydrogen gas which is continually burnt and replenished in stars and is our Sun’s main source of thermal energy. Without hydrogen, there would be no light in the universe as there is evidence that ambient universal light comes almost completely from the combustion of hydrogen.

In astronomical science, particularly astrophysics, hydrogen plays a key role in developing our understanding of how our universe functions. We use hydrogen to explain the gravitational forces between planets and stars, and also explain how in space, vibrations of hydrogen molecules can amazingly cause sound to be heard in space. Similarly, hydrogen explains the presence of many scientific phenomena such as the presence of dark lines in the light spectrum when a spectrometer views the sun.

In conclusion, hydrogen is perhaps the most important element in our universe. Whilst its small size and low atomic weight causes it to appear insignificant, hydrogen forms most of our universe and also is present in our daily lives. All organic compounds such as plastics, glues and even ourselves contain hydrogen chemically bonded to carbon atoms. It is only through the presence of hydrogen that scientists are able to develop their understanding of science and our universe. As our knowledge of the universe around us grows, so too does our appreciation of the significance of this odourless and colourless gas.