Astronomical Spectra Light can be distinguished by its wavelength, but why stop there - there is a whole lot more we can do with light, just by using a piece of cut glass. If you were to pass the light from an object (a star, the Sun, a glowing gas cloud) through a prism , you would produce a rainbow like feature known as a spectrum (plural: spectra ). Figure 2 shows a prism spreading out light; actually it's just artwork, not a real prism. Figure 2. The album cover from Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" showing a prism spreading out white light into the colors of the spectrum. When we look at the spectra from various objects out in space, we don't see the same spectra - there are some with big gaps, some with colors missing, and some that are a real mess. How is this possible? What causes the different types of spectra? To understand this, we have to understand how atoms interact with light and how spectra are produced. Perhaps this would be a good time to get a nice strong cup of
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This note was uploaded on 12/15/2011 for the course AST AST1002 taught by Professor Emilyhoward during the Fall '10 term at Broward College.