We investigate blackbody-induced energy shifts for low-lying levels of atomic systems, with a special emphasis on transitions used in current and planned high-precision experiments on atomic hydrogen and ionized helium. Fine-structure- and Lamb-shift-induced blackbody shifts are found to increase with the square of the nuclear charge number, whereas blackbody shifts due to virtual transitions decrease with increasing nuclear charge as the fourth power of the nuclear charge. We also investigate the decay width acquired by the ground state of atomic hydrogen, due to interaction with blackbody photons. The corresponding width is due to an instability against excitation to higher excited atomic levels, and due to blackbody-induced ionization. These effects limit the lifetime of even the most fundamental, a priori absolutely stable, "asymptotic" state of atomic theory, namely, the ground state of atomic hydrogen.



Keywords and Phrases

Atomic Physics; Atoms; Ground State; Helium; Hydrogen; Inert Gases; Atomic Hydrogens; Atomic Systems; Atomic Theories; Decay Widths; Excited Atomic Levels; Hydrogenlike Ions; Induced Energies; Nuclear Charge Numbers; Nuclear Charges; Special Emphases; Virtual Transitions; Electromagnetic Induction

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2008 American Physical Society (APS), All rights reserved.

Included in

Physics Commons