Don’t Stare At The Sun!

Seriously, though. Don’t do it. Okay, maybe you can. Just not directly at the sun, of course. Why? Well, it’s the only way we’ll know for sure. What? Okay, let me explain. We know that our sun is made up of mostly hydrogen and helium. How do we know this, you might ask? Well, by looking at the light that our sun emits. You see, scientists found out that atoms, when excited, emit a certain wavelength of light depending on their chemical composition. They did this for numerous chemical elements, and with the accumulated knowledge, which came to be known as the atomic spectrum, the compositions of numerous stars were identified by comparing the spectrums of light that each star emitted, including that of our own.

As for what they used in order to do just that is a tool called the spectroscope, which scientists are using nowadays to identify the composition of stars AND planets in the far reaches of the galaxy, hoping that one day, they might find one such solar system much like ours. Think of it as our way of finding out if life exists beyond the boundaries of the solar system we live in, all from the comfort of our home. Pretty cool, right? I know, and it fascinated me so much that I searched up online about any related science experiment that I can do right here, at home. To my surprise, I can build my very own spectroscope that, although may not be as powerful as those used by astronomers, will allow me to at least see the light spectrum being emitted by light sources found around the house. All I needed was to gather the following:

Materials Needed:

  • A cereal box,
  • A CD – ROM,
  • Aluminum foil,
  • A cutter,
  • Tape

Procedure:

Once I got everything I needed, I just had to follow a video I found online (the link is provided above) step-by-step on how to set up my very own spectroscope. To give a background on how to operate it after you’ve completed yours, if you followed along yourself, is that you look through the hole directly above the CD – ROM that is inserted into the cereal box, while the slit made with aluminum foil is where the light enters, reflecting off of the CD, thus creating a visible spectrum. If you look closely at the light spectrums of different sources of light, you would notice that they would be slightly, if not, completely different from each other. Amazing!

Now, the home-made spectroscope is in no shape to give us an accurate image of the light spectrum being emitted so determining the composition is impossible. But, it’s still pretty cool to at least notice a difference in the spectrum patterns of different light sources. So, I suggest you make one yourself if you haven’t already.

Your boy,

Seth Martin

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