Problem: An excited hydrogen atom emits light with a wavelength of 397.2 nm to reach the energy level for which n = 2. In which principal quantum level did the electron begin?

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We’re being asked to determine in which principal quantum number level (or energy level, n) did the electron begin.


We’re going to use the Balmer Equation which relates wavelengths to a photon’s electronic transitions.

1λ=RZ21n2final-1n2initial

λ = wavelength, m
R = Rydberg constant = 1.097x107 m-1 
Z = atomic number of the element
ninitial = initial energy level
nfinal = final energy level


Calculate the initial principal quantum level (ninitial):

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Problem Details

An excited hydrogen atom emits light with a wavelength of 397.2 nm to reach the energy level for which n = 2. In which principal quantum level did the electron begin?

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Based on our data, we think this problem is relevant for Professor McCrory's class at UMICH.

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Our data indicates that this problem or a close variation was asked in Chemistry: An Atoms First Approach - Zumdahl Atoms 1st 2nd Edition. You can also practice Chemistry: An Atoms First Approach - Zumdahl Atoms 1st 2nd Edition practice problems.