Make Your Own Spectroscope

Make Your Own Spectroscope


Spectroscopy is a method used in scientific research to measure the abundance of chemicals in the composition of a given source. In astronomy, we use a tool called a spectroscope to make these measurements.


Spectroscopes are much like prisms in the way that they work; if you shine a torch on a glass prism, the light breaks up into its different constituents and colours and can be seen to disperse into what is known as a spectrum (like a rainbow). The spectroscope we will be making in this activity will not bend/redirect light like a prism, but will still break up the light into different constituents and create the familiar spectrum of different colours. This is done via something called diffraction grating. The diffraction grating used in this activity is a thin piece of film interspersed with thousands of tiny gratings (so tiny that the human eye cannot see them directly), which splits up the light as it passes through them. Different colours within light correspond to different wavelengths, these different wavelengths scatter at different angles as they pass through the grating paper, thus land on different parts of whatever device you are using. 


The importance of these colours is that they actually represent the abundance of certain elements within the source you are looking at.


Resources Needed:

  • Printed spectroscope cutout (printed card works much better than paper)
  • Diffraction grating paper
60 mins

Age Suitability: 
11 to 14
14 to 16
16 to 18

Teacher Files: