Stellar Guides

For Elements In Our Sky! by Sam Joslyn

Light and Color

The visible light spectrum contains violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red. These colors all have different wavelengths, and thus when travelling throughout space, have differing frequencies. When our eyes see a color, it means that out of all the light waves hitting that object, some of those waves aren't being absorbed and can be seen.

Why Is This Useful?

The fact that some colors aren't absorbed makes light's behavior useful to astrologists. Why? Well, because elements throughout our cosmos when looked at using spectroscopes have their own light wave "fingerprint" or spectrum.

When using this tool, scientists can then look at stars too far for us to reach and find out their composition. Stars emit light as a result of nuclear fusion, and as the particles smash into each other they can form other elements. For example, 2 atoms of hydrogen fusing into a helium atom.

Astronomers can then use the elements they find in the star to learn more about it. As stars continue to use nuclear fusion, eventually those atoms will form bigger and bigger elements. When the star becomes too dense and heavy, it can die and collapse upon itself. This is one example of the spectroscope's importance to scientists.

What's a Spectrascope?

A spectroscope is a tool that shows the light spectra from light sources. It shows Darkline (absorption), Brightline (emission) or Continuous (more of a rainbow-type) spectra. There are different kinds of light signatures given off by the elements. These include absorption and emission.

There is a prism in the spectroscope which separates the light into its respective wavelengths when you look at the source.

How Do You Use a Spectroscope?

When using a spectroscope, point it at the light source. Look through the slot letting in light. The spectrum should be shown to the right side, and can be seen by keeping the spectroscope still and turning your head a bit. If you move, you could miss the light source.

Below are some examples of light spectra and their respective elements, much like how you would see them in a spectroscope.

Hydrogen Light Spectrum

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Krypton Light Spectrum

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Nitrogen Light Spectrum

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Helium Light Spectrum

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Chlorine Light Spectrum

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