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I understand that we can use the Rydberg equation to calculate the energy change when electrons are excited from one energy level to another. But what should we do when the values of n are not given? Do we use the Lyman and Balmer series value of n1 as the original value of n?
I am not 100% sure but from the success that I had with these kinds of problems when the values of n aren't given, it would depend on what is given. Assuming that everything but n is given, you would simplify it to 1/n(1)^2 - 1/n(2)^2 = Given info (after simplifying). From here you kind of have to guess and check for n(1) and n(2) from there. But you at least know that n(1) < n(2).
When the two n values aren't given, one will be usually given in a hidden way. The question might mention the series that's used or the part of the spectrum. For example, the question might say the Lyman series (and then you would know that the value of n we are reaching is n=1), or that it's in the visible light region (which would make n=2). Hope this helps!
It really depends on how much information the problem gives you and which values of variables you are asked to find because you need certain components to be able to solve and find certain values. Most often you will only be required to find one component while being given the rest, and in these cases the trickier problems will try to hid the components that they do give you. For example, you will be given the wavelength of the radiation emitted and none of the "n"s, in this case the wavelength given holds the key to which kind of series it belongs to which can help you find the energy level it begins at (n1). In this case n2 is the part you truly have to solve for because the rest was based off given information.
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