Physics GCSE: Spectroscopy and the composition of stars

Jon Chase describes how different elements absorb and emit light of specific wavelengths or colours.

He explains how this can be used to identify which elements are present in distant stars by analysing the spectrum of radiation coming from these stars.

This short film is from the BBC series, Space Science Bites.

Teacher Notes

You could discuss how white light can be split into its spectrum and students could make their own CD spectrometer.

The students could investigate the flame colours produced by different elements.

A piece of metal could be heated to show how the colour changes with increasing temperature. Relate this to the colours of different stars.

Curriculum Notes

This short film will be relevant for teaching physics.

This topic appears in OCR, Edexcel, AQA, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 in Scotland.

More from Space Science Bites:

Gravity on Earth and in space
The life cycle of stars
Nuclear fusion in stars
The Big Bang and red shift
Waves and communication