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written by the Exploratorium
This is a detailed instruction guide for building a spectroscope out of inexpensive materials. A spectrometer or spectroscope is an optical device that separates visible light into its component colors. In this classroom experiment, students will use low-cost diffraction gratings (readily available from scientific supply stores), a shoebox, tape, and index cards to construct a spectroscope. As students look through the slit at one end of the shoebox, they will see the light "sorted" by frequency into a spectrum of colors.
This item is part of a larger collection of resources for teachers and learners sponsored by the Exploratorium Museum, San Francisco. SEE RELATED MATERIALS on this page for a link to the full index of Exploratorium activities on the topic of light.
**NOTE: Audio narration is available through RealAudio format, but is not required to view the resource.
This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.
Topic: Nature and Behavior of Light
Unit Title: Visible Light and Color
Using a spectroscope, students can see that a single color of light is really comprised of a combination of colors, called a spectrum. This fun activity by the Exploratorium Museum shows them how to build a spectroscope out of a shoebox and other low-cost materials. The key "ingredient" of the spectroscope is a diffraction grating, a device with multiple evenly-spaced parallel slits to let light through. Don't worry...the diffraction grating material can be cheaply obtained.Link to Unit:
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