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Science

Exploring space

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Making a spectrometer

What is a spectrometer?

Light can be split into its spectrum of colours using a spectrometer. Different light sources will give different spectra through the spectrometer. For example, sunlight will have black lines in the spectra as the atmosphere absorbs some of the sun’s light.

A spectrometer can easily be made using a box and an old CD.

  1. Cut a hole in a cardboard box to create an eye hole.
  2. Just below the eye hole, cut a 60° angle to hold the CD in place.
  3. Opposite the CD, cut thin slits in the box wall to create a light source (as shown in the diagram below).
Spectrometer

A simple spectrometer

Common spectra

spectrum of light with black verticle lines

Spectrum of the sun

Some common spectra

ObjectSpectra
Laptop. © DIFFER. Credit: Mark Tiele Westra   Laptop spectra. © DIFFER. Credit: Mark Tiele Westra
Incandescent light. © DIFFER. Credit: Mark Tiele Westra    Incandescent spectra. © DIFFER. Credit: Mark Tiele Westra
Fluorescent light. © DIFFER. Credit: Mark Tiele Westra   Fluorescent spectra. © DIFFER. Credit: Mark Tiele Westra

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