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Students are introduced to the scientific tool of spectroscopy. They each build a simple spectroscope to examine the light from different light sources, particularly the Sun (Warning: Do not look directly at the Sun) and artificial lights (e.g., fluorescent or sodium lamps). Students compare the continuous spectrum of incandescent lights and the solar spectrum with the clear spectral lines of the fluorescent or sodium room lights and discharge lamps. They learn how the spectral "fingerprints" of each particular element help astronomers recognize the presence of specific elements in distant astronomical objects. Students are also introduced to the broader electromagnetic spectrum beyond what is visible with our eyes and how scientists observe distant objects using multiple wavelength bands. This activity is part of a series that has been designed specifically for use with Girl Scouts, but the activities can be used in other settings. Most of the materials are inexpensive.
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