Posted: December 8th, 2022
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For this project you are going to observe some light sources. You are going to observe the SPECTRA of those light sources. If you have a spectroscope, use that. If not, you can find a poor-man’s spectroscope in the form of a DVD or CD. The DVD does the same job as the diffraction grating in the spectroscope, that is, it spreads out the light from the source into its component colors. You studied spectra and spectrographs in Ch. 4. Remember? R-E-M-E-M-B-E-R ???
Let the light from the source shine in through the slit in the spectroscope (The one we handed out at the equipment distribution. If you don’t have one, let me know and maybe we can arrange another distribution). It takes some practice to produce a nice rainbow, or spectrum. For example the Sun delivers way more light than you need, but the Moon’s spectrum is tough to see because the Moon is much fainter than the Sun and only a narrow slit allows the light through. You will be able to see rainbows on the left and right, and even on top of the wavelength scale, depending on how you hold the spectroscope.
If you are rockin’ a DVD, well that’s just sad. Tilt the shiny side toward the light source, this way and that, and try to make a decent rainbow. Distant sources (like the Sun) will be easier, as will small sources (like a pen light or candle flame). Big sources like a TV screen or forest fire will be difficult: There will be fat, overlapping spectra.
Try observing the Sun, an incandescent light bulb, an LED light, a fluorescent light, a candle flame, gas flame from stove or propane torch, street light, red light from electric stove coil.
Draw me a picture of your observations. Make it look like a long bar, with sections representing the different colors. One bar for each spectrum/light source observed. With colored pencils you could indicate the colors and brightnesses. I would cry tears of joy if I saw real colors. If not that, at least label the parts of the spectrum in words, indicating colors and brightnesses. Send me a photo or scan of your picture.
I’d be pleased to see a few comments on what you’ve seen. For example, “I was surprised how little yellow light I saw in the spectrum of a candle flame. There definitely wasn’t much blue, but there was a lot of RED.”
I expect you to draw me at least SIX RAIBOWS, i.e., spectra. Be a careful observer and recorder. Don’t just make a kindergarten mess with your crayons. I know what these spectra are supposed to look like, so pay attention. This is easy points if you do a good job the first time. Many of your predecessors did not and brought great pain upon themselves.
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