Identifying Elements in Stars

By Conor McCarty and Charlie Miller

Information

Stars are big balls of hot gas, made up of a two different elements, Hydrogen and Helium. We can identify the elements by looking through spectroscopes. The readings from the spectroscope coming from a star will identify the elements in that star based on the lines that show up on the spectra.

This helps astronomers very much because it can show us what elements stars are made up of. Also the what the atmospheres of distant planets are comprised of.

We also use spectroscopes to see how far away stars and galaxies are from Earth. We can see that because you can see how red shifted or blue shifted different stars are. The more red shifted they are the farther away and the opposite with blue shift.

Identifying the Elements

Different elements show up differently on the spectroscope. Visible light on the spectra is between 400 (Violet) and 800 (Red). Lines show up at certain points on the spectra and based on where they show up, we know what gases or elements we are looking at.

For example one of the gases found in stars, Hydrogen, shows up as a purple line at 410 nm, a blue line at 434 nm, a teal line at 486 nm, and a red line at 656 nm when looking through a spectroscope.

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