Suppose an electron in an atom at the K-orbital is sufficiently energized (excited) that it jumps to the L-orbital. When this electron returns to its ground electronic state (it jumps back to the K-orbital), in order to respect the law of conservation of energy, the excess energy it has garnered from the excitation is shed through the emission of a photon, the frequency of which varies with the atom. This is why the burning of sodium chloride atop a near-colourless hydrogen flame produces an intense yellow light.

What is the scientific term for this photon emission? I thought it was Bremsstrahlung, but turns out that refers to a completely unrelated type of photon emission.


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    $\begingroup$ It's just emission, or maybe 'spontaneous emission' in this case. $\endgroup$ – knzhou Sep 20 '17 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ Spectral emmission also, quantum leap $\endgroup$ – user121330 Sep 20 '17 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ In the case of x-rays, it is called characteristic xray (emission). The emission can be seen in energy spectra as peaks, where bremsstrahlung has a continous spectrum $\endgroup$ – Stefan Sep 20 '17 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ I would call this fluorescence or radiative decay. $\endgroup$ – Paul Sep 20 '17 at 16:59

Excitation of electrons to higher orbitals give spectral absorption lines. The consequent deexcitations give spectral emission lines.


The term is spectral lines, to contrast with the continuum produced by other emissions.


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