Thursday, January 20, 2022

Homeschool Astronomy: Spectroscope Lab

 Will completed this Astronomy lab as part of the chapter on radiation in her astronomy textbook. It was cheap, it didn't require much setup, it was simple to complete, and, most importantly--it was fun and interesting!

Spectroscope Lab


Pre-Lab Work (Answer these questions in your Astronomy Lab Notebook):

  1. Complete the online spectroscope lesson.
  2. List the colors, from longest to shortest wavelength, as observed in the solar spectrum. What do the dark lines in the absorption spectra of stars indicate?


  1. Aim the spectroscope at a variety of light sources:
    1. LIGHT SOURCES TO TEST (list the exact sources that you test in your Astronomy Lab Notebook):
      1. desk lamps
      2. computer screens
      3. television screens
      4. sun (don't look directly at the sun)
      5. light bulbs
      6. candle light
      7. flame from the stove
  2. For each light source, draw a box that models the spectroscope's display.
  3. Use colored pencils to draw the spectrum that you see for each light source. Include the numbering.
  4. Using the data you gathered, give more information about each light source. Can you name the type of light bulb, or discuss its energy efficiency? Can you name any elements or chemicals in the flame sources?

Post-Lab Questions:

  1. Which colors/wavelengths of light had the most energy? Which had the least?
  2. What color of light do you think would be most useful for a plant doing photosynthesis, and why?
  3. Which color of light would be most useful as a source of energy for a solar power plant? Why?
  4. Give an idea for an experiment that tests any of these concepts further. You may not describe the same experiment with different materials.
Will was able to do this lab independently, without needing me for an extra set of hands. Here she is observing the spectrum of candlelight:

And here's part of her lab report!

I used to have such high hopes for this kid's handwriting. And I kid you not--it has taken until literally last year to get it this legible. It's my biggest homeschool failure.

We could do even more cool spectroscopy with a good chemistry setup, but it's looking like chemistry will be the one science that we don't DIY during Will's high school years.

Other than, you know, the time we made rocket candy for her sixth grade science fair, or put sulfuric acid on limestone for geology, or all the other chemistry-adjacent stuff that I probably should have been tallying up for at least a credit's worth of high school chemistry by now...

P.S. If you want a ready-to-use version of this lab, here's a Google Doc of the Spectroscope Lab assignment sheet.

P.P.S. Come find me over on my Facebook page, where I often talk about the labs and experiments that we're doing as we're doing them!

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