Unlocking the Stars

Identifying their elements

How is it done?

First things first there's a little study called spectroscopy. A spectroscope is used to to disperse wavelengths that we can view in a spectrum.
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What's the deal with these spectra?

There are 3:

  • Continuous: all wavelengths are emitted without any gaps
  • Absorption: certain wavelengths are absorbed
  • Emission: only a few wavelengths are emitted

Continous Spectrum

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Absorption Spectrum

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Emission Spectrum

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how is this helpful to astronomers?

Each element has its own unique set of wavelengths of emission or absorption. Based upon the unique pattern in each element's spectra, astronomers are able to identify the elements that make up the composition of certain stars.
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