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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.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
- Diffraction
- Geometrical Optics
= Optical Instruments
- Middle School
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
- Audio/Visual
= Voice Recording
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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© 1999 The Exploratorium Museum
color spectrum, diffraction grating, hands-on lab, high school lab, light spectra, middle school lab, prism, project
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created June 23, 2006 by Ann Deml
Record Updated:
June 4, 2009 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
February 12, 2008

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.

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Record Link
AIP Format
Exploratorium, (1999), WWW Document, (http://www.exploratorium.edu/spectroscope/).
Exploratorium, How To Build a Spectroscope, (1999), <http://www.exploratorium.edu/spectroscope/>.
APA Format
Exploratorium. (2008, February 12). How To Build a Spectroscope. Retrieved May 27, 2016, from http://www.exploratorium.edu/spectroscope/
Chicago Format
Exploratorium. How To Build a Spectroscope. February 12, 2008. http://www.exploratorium.edu/spectroscope/ (accessed 27 May 2016).
MLA Format
Exploratorium. How To Build a Spectroscope. 1999. 12 Feb. 2008. 27 May 2016 <http://www.exploratorium.edu/spectroscope/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Exploratorium", Title = {How To Build a Spectroscope}, Volume = {2016}, Number = {27 May 2016}, Month = {February 12, 2008}, Year = {1999} }
Refer Export Format

%Q Exploratorium
%T How To Build a Spectroscope
%D February 12, 2008
%U http://www.exploratorium.edu/spectroscope/
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%A Exploratorium,
%D February 12, 2008
%T How To Build a Spectroscope
%V 2016
%N 27 May 2016
%8 February 12, 2008
%9 text/html
%U http://www.exploratorium.edu/spectroscope/

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How To Build a Spectroscope:

Is Part Of Exploratorium: Snacks About Light

A link to the full index of more than 40 activities developed by the Exploratorium on the topic of light.

relation by Caroline Hall

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