Where does the Helium go?

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imspartacus

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As silly as this sounds, I would like to know what happens when helium--from balloons, for example--is released into the atmosphere (either at sea-level or very high altitude.<br /><br />Specifically, does the Helium rise through the atmosphere, then escape into space?<br /><br />Or, does the Helium remain gravitationally/magnetically/otherwise trapped in the upper atmosphere? If so, does it migrate to a specific region in the atmosphere?
 
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MeteorWayne

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Welcome to Space.com!<br /><br />Interesting question. <br />My understanding is that it rises far enough above the bulk of the atmosphere so it is swept away by the solar wind.<br /><br />But that is not an expert opinion, a bit of research will be required.<br />Why don't you look into it too, and see what we find out?<br /><br />If my idea is correct, it is a nonrenewable resource as far as the earth's ecosystem is concerened, something I hadn't thought about before.<br /><br />Great question!! <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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heyscottie

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You are right -- helium in the atmosphere does generally rise up high enough where it is eventually stripped away by random accelerations or by solar wind. As such, we should expect to have very little helium remaining in the atmosphere, which is more or less true.<br /><br />Fortunately, helium is replenshed through multiple processes of radioactive decay. Basically, anything that emits an alpha particle as part of its decay process is emitting a helium nucleus. The helium nucleus eventually picks up free electrons or steals them from other less electrically stable atoms to make a complete helium atom.
 
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CalliArcale

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*confused* Wouldn't that process produce hydrogen, not helium?<br /><br />Sometimes I wish I'd persevered on that chemistry major . . . . <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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Mee_n_Mac

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To be honest I wasn't sure myself so I looked it up and sure enough an alpha particle is 2 protons and 2 neutrons ... a He nucleus.<br /><br />One source that agrees. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p>-----------------------------------------------------</p><p><font color="#ff0000">Ask not what your Forum Software can do do on you,</font></p><p><font color="#ff0000">Ask it to, please for the love of all that's Holy, <strong>STOP</strong> !</font></p> </div>
 
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Saiph

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alpha particles are helium nuclei, two protons, two neutrons.<br /><br />Beta particles are just electrons (leaving behind a proton in the nucleus, that used to be a neutron)<br /><br />Gamma rays are just gamma photons. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p align="center"><font color="#c0c0c0"><br /></font></p><p align="center"><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">--------</font></em></font><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">--------</font></em></font><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">----</font></em></font><font color="#666699">SaiphMOD@gmail.com </font><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">-------------------</font></em></font></p><p><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">"This is my Timey Wimey Detector.  Goes "bing" when there's stuff.  It also fries eggs at 30 paces, wether you want it to or not actually.  I've learned to stay away from hens: It's not pretty when they blow" -- </font></em></font><font size="1" color="#999999">The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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CalliArcale

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Interesting. I had always thought alpha particles were just bare naked protons -- basically, a positively charged hydrogen ion.<br /><br />I have learned something today! Thank you! <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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mindmute

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Calli, are you being sincere, or sarcastic? you didn't leave an emoticon, so i wasn't sure. <br /><br />oh, wait, there it is... it's uh, book...
 
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MeteorWayne

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Trust me, Calli is ALWAYS sincere. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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nexium

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According to Wikpedia naked protons are never emitted, except from a few artificial isotopes, and very fast collisions. The article is called proton emission. Neil
 
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CalliArcale

Guest
Yep, I'm being sincere. One of the things I like so much about this place is that I keep learning new things!<br /><br />I didn't take any physics past high school, and I dropped out of chemistry in college. I enjoyed it, but not quite as much as computer science. <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /> So I have a tremendous deficit of knowledge in these areas. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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