) is a non-radioactive isotope of the element helium. It is by far the most abundant of the two naturally occurring isotopes of helium, making up about 99.99986% of the helium on Earth. Its nucleus is identical to an alpha particle, and consists of two protons and two neutrons.
Alpha decay of heavy elements in the Earth's crust is the source of most naturally occurring helium-4 on Earth. While it is also produced by nuclear fusion in stars, most helium-4 in the Sun and in the universe is thought to have been produced by the Big Bang, and is referred to as "primordial helium". However, primordial helium-4 is largely absent from the Earth, having escaped during the high-temperature phase of Earth's formation. Radioactive decay from other elements is the source of most of the helium-4 found on Earth, produced after the planet cooled and solidified.
Helium-4 makes up about one quarter of the ordinary matter in the universe by mass, with almost all of the rest being hydrogen.
When liquid helium-4 is cooled to below 2.17 kelvins (–271.17 °C) it becomes a superfluid, with properties that are very unlike those of an ordinary liquid. For example, if superfluid helium-4 is kept in an open vessel, a thin film will climb up the sides of the vessel and overflow. In this state and situation, it is called a "Rollin film". This strange behavior is a result of the Clausius–Clapeyron relation, and cannot be explained by the current model of classical mechanics, nor by nuclear or electrical models – it can only be understood as a quantum mechanical phenomenon. The total spin of the helium-4 nucleus is an integer (zero), and therefore it is a boson (as are neutral atoms of helium-4). The superfluid behavior is now understood to be a manifestation of Bose–Einstein condensation, which occurs only with collections of bosons.
Helium-4 also exists on the Moon and—as on Earth—it is the most abundant helium isotope.
The helium atom is the second simplest atom (hydrogen is the simplest), but the extra electron introduces a third "body", so the solution to its wave equation becomes a "three-body problem", which has no analytic solution. However, numerical approximations of the equations of quantum mechanics have given a good estimate of the key atomic properties of helium-4, such as its size and ionization energy.