Neon - Occurrence


Stable isotopes of neon are produced in stars. 20Ne is created in fusing helium and oxygen in the alpha process, which requires temperatures above 100 megakelvins and masses greater than 3 solar masses.

Neon is abundant on a universal scale; it is the fifth most abundant chemical element in the universe by mass, after hydrogen, helium, oxygen, and carbon (see chemical element). Its relative rarity on Earth, like that of helium, is due to its relative lightness, high vapor pressure at very low temperatures, and chemical inertness, all properties which tend to keep it from being trapped in the condensing gas and dust clouds which resulted in the formation of smaller and warmer solid planets like Earth.

Neon is monatomic, making it lighter than the molecules of diatomic nitrogen and oxygen which form the bulk of Earth's atmosphere; a balloon filled with neon will rise in air, albeit more slowly than a helium balloon.

Mass abundance in the universe is about 1 part in 750 and in the Sun and presumably in the proto-solar system nebula, about 1 part in 600. The Galileo spacecraft atmospheric entry probe found that even in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter, the abundance of neon is reduced (depleted) by about a factor of 10, to a level of 1 part in 6,000 by mass. This may indicate that even the ice-planetesimals which brought neon into Jupiter from the outer solar system, formed in a region which was too warm for them to have kept their neon (abundances of heavier inert gases on Jupiter are several times that found in the Sun).

Neon is rare on Earth, found in the Earth's atmosphere at 1 part in 55,000, or 18.2 ppm by volume (this is about the same as the molecule or mole fraction), or 1 part in 79,000 of air by mass. It comprises a smaller fraction in the crust. It is industrially produced by cryogenic fractional distillation of liquefied air.

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