of Activity: |
Students build a working spectroscope to study
the nature of light. The curriculum includes study guides for various grade groups,
PowerPoints to explain concepts, a comic describing spectroscopy, age-appropriate hands-on activities, and videos.
Class sets of spectroscopes and gratings are available from Astronomers Without Borders.
Instructions for assembly come with the spectroscopes. A different version is also available:
Spectroscope Assembly and Simple Lesson Plan
Curriculum Resources associated with this activity:
- PowerPoint presentation/introduction to spectroscopy.
The presentation was designed
to introduce spectroscopy and accompany the Stanford spectroscopes, but could be used stand-alone.
- Secrets in
A comic targeted to grades 4-8 which explains spectroscopy in similar terms as the PowerPoint presentation above.
Available in pdf and epub (for iPads and iBooks)
- Colors of the Sun video.
Shot at the Wilcox Solar Observatory on the Stanford campus, this 16 minute video explains spectroscopy
and demonstrates that the observatory is nothing more than a giant spectrograph! Designed for grades 5-8 but
suitable for older students as well.
Colors and Motions of the Sun Video.
An introduction to solar science and how spectroscopy is used to study the Sun. Includes information
about solar telescopes and spacecraft. Produced by Jay Pasachoff. (Second edition; 16 minutes; grades 9-12)
- Fingerprints in Sunlight.
An expanded version of the introductory Powerpoint presentation mentioned above, designed for grades 9-12.
Includes more extensive demonstrations
and activities to be used to introduce spectroscopy and the nature of the atom to high school students.
Designed to accompany spectroscopes but could be used stand-alone.
- Fingerprints in Starlight.
A chemistry-related enchanced version of the Fingerprints in Sunlight presentation. Designed to introduce
spectroscopy to an AP Chemistry high school class. Includes more in-depth understanding of the nature of the atom,
a teacher's guide, additonal activities, and assessments.
- Study guide for grades 2-4
(uses gratings only; does not require spectroscope)
- Study guide for grades 5-8
60 minutes to build the
1 class period for each of the activities chosen.
- Have some
prior exposure to the nature and topic of light.
Have sufficient small motor skills to handle cutting and taping.
1 poster and grating for each student
(Available from the Stanford SOLAR Center).
work sheets from Study Guide
The movie "Colors of the Sun", produced by
Stanford SOLAR Center (optional)
Access to various light sources such as incandescent and flourescent bulbs
- The Study Guide (see below) gives additional materials needed for the
Initially build one of the spectroscopes
to learn how to construct and use it.
View Completed Spectroscope
Study Guide and Work Sheets:
Build and learn how to use their own working spectroscope.
Observe how white light can be refracted to form a color spectrum that gives
distinctive information about its source.
Learn what spectroscopic data can specifically tell astronomers about the Sun, planets, stars,
and other objects far away.
- Observe that the visible spectrum is
only a part of what our Sun, a star, emits within the electromagnetic spectrum.
Determine that the distance of an object from an observer affects the
apparent size of the object
Understand how technological design can help scientists to better understand
our Earth, our Sun, our solar system, and the universe around us.
Grades 2-4, 5-12
Relationship to National Standards:
The study guide details steps for each activity. The activities are:
Sizing up the Stars:
Students observe that two objects of equal
size can appear to be different sizes when placed at a greater or
lesser distance from the observer. (Grades 2-8)
A Rainbow Connection:
Students observe how white light can be refracted to form a visible
color sectrum that has a pattern. (Grades 2-4)
- From a Distance:
Students utilize their abilities for technological design to perform
science inquiry by proposing methods for obtaining information about a faraway object
with being able to handle or get close to is. (Grades 5-8)
Wavelength and Energy:
A graphic demonstration of the relationship between energy and wavelength.
Designed to initiate a discussion about the electromagnetic spectrum. (Grades 5-8)
Introduces students to the concept of resonance and the absorption of energy
by atoms or molecules when electromagnetic radiation enters the Earth's atmosphere.
Students construct their own spectroscope, observe common light
sources, record their spectra, and compare their findings with fellow classroom
scientisits. (Grades 5-14)
Assessment information is included in the
A glossary is included in the