Introduction to Spectroscopy

How do we know what stars are made of since we can’t actually go there?

How do we know the structure of atoms since we can’t see them?

This activity introduces students to atomic, emission, and absorption spectra and is inspired by SPIE’s Light as a Wave and Light as a Particle posters, available here

In this optics outreach activity, students build their very own take-home spectrometers! Students will use the spectrometers to observe several light sources, such as gas discharge lamps, light bulbs, and even the sun. They will discover the optical “fingerprints” which are used to determine the atomic composition of stars. Educators will lead students through a discussion about electron excitation, placing emphasis on the energy difference between electronic states.

Opening and closing discussions are found in the Spectroscopy Worksheet.
Dimensions of the spectrometer pieces are shown here.
The Wavelength scale is located here.
Sheets of diffraction grating are available on Amazon.


Detailed spectrometer building instructions are shown in this short video:

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