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published 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.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
- Color
- Diffraction
- Geometrical Optics
= Optical Instruments
- Middle School
- Informal Education
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
- Audio/Visual
= Sound
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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© 1999 Exploratorium
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:
August 17, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
February 12, 2008
Other Collections:

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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AIP Format
(Exploratorium, San Francisco, 1999), WWW Document, (http://www.exploratorium.edu/spectroscope/).
How To Build a Spectroscope, (Exploratorium, San Francisco, 1999), <http://www.exploratorium.edu/spectroscope/>.
APA Format
How To Build a Spectroscope. (2008, February 12). Retrieved June 5, 2020, from Exploratorium: http://www.exploratorium.edu/spectroscope/
Chicago Format
Exploratorium. How To Build a Spectroscope. San Francisco: Exploratorium, February 12, 2008. http://www.exploratorium.edu/spectroscope/ (accessed 5 June 2020).
MLA Format
How To Build a Spectroscope. San Francisco: Exploratorium, 1999. 12 Feb. 2008. 5 June 2020 <http://www.exploratorium.edu/spectroscope/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {How To Build a Spectroscope}, Publisher = {Exploratorium}, Volume = {2020}, Number = {5 June 2020}, Month = {February 12, 2008}, Year = {1999} }
Refer Export Format

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

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D February 12, 2008
%T How To Build a Spectroscope
%I Exploratorium
%V 2020
%N 5 June 2020
%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.

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