Build a Spectrograph
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Using simple materials students build a spectrograph and use it to analyze light sources. While doing so students will learn how and why astronomers use spectroscopy to gain understanding of what is inside the atmospheres of stars and planets in our universe.
• Cardboard oatmeal containers, one for each student
• Holographic diffraction gratings, one slide for each student. See note on purchasing.
• Incandescent light bulb, at least one, more if you desire more stations for your students.
• Exacto knives– one for each student pair.
• Tape– one for each student pair.
• Index cards– one for each student.
• Black markers– one for each student or student pair.
• Rulers with cm measurements– one for each student.
• Directions for Building a Fancy Spectrograph– one for each student pair.
• Lab/Homework Sheet printouts– one for each student.
Holographic diffraction gratings can be purchased in sheets or on card-mounted slides from: (info. from 2018)
A set of 2 12” x 6” sheets with 12,700 Grooves/in. costs $7.95
A set of 15 2” x 2” card mounted slides with 12,700 Grooves/in. costs $9.95
Rainbow Symphony Store
A set of 10 12” x 6” linear sheets with 500-13,500 Line/mm. costs $25.00
A set of 50 2” x 2” card mounted slides with 500-13,500 Line/mm. costs $0.40/each for 50-99
Please download the Build a Fancy Spectrograph lesson plan below, which contains instructions as well as student Lab and Homework sheets.
This is Part 1 of a 2 part activity. Follow this activity with the Use your Spectrograph activity.
Check out the video and other resources tabs above for helpful materials to teach your students about spectroscopy.
Bill Nye gives a great introduction to spectroscopes and their use in astronomy.