<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Continuous spectrum and line spectra from different elements.

Emission line spectra from different chemical elements. This figure has 5 rows, the first of which is a continuous color spectrum, with a wavelength scale above given in Angstroms, from 4000 to 7400. Below are four spectra, each are black with just a few narrow vertical colored lines corresponding to the colors in the wavelength scale. The first spectrum is that of sodium (Na) with about 8 lines, below that is the spectrum of hydrogen (H) with 4 lines, then calcium (Ca) and lastly mercury (Hg), each with over 10 lines. The more complex the element, the more lines will appear in its spectrum.
Each type of glowing gas (each element) produces its own unique pattern of lines, so the composition of a gas can be identified by its spectrum. The spectra of sodium, hydrogen, calcium, and mercury gases are shown here.

Types of spectra

In these experiments, then, there were three different types of spectra . A continuous spectrum    (formed when a solid or very dense gas gives off radiation) is an array of all wavelengths or colors of the rainbow. A continuous spectrum can serve as a backdrop from which the atoms of much less dense gas can absorb light. A dark line, or absorption spectrum    , consists of a series or pattern of dark lines—missing colors—superimposed upon the continuous spectrum of a source. A bright line, or emission spectrum    , appears as a pattern or series of bright lines; it consists of light in which only certain discrete wavelengths are present. ( [link] shows an absorption spectrum, whereas [link] shows the emission spectrum of a number of common elements along with an example of a continuous spectrum.)

When we have a hot, thin gas, each particular chemical element or compound produces its own characteristic pattern of spectral lines—its spectral signature. No two types of atoms or molecules give the same patterns. In other words, each particular gas can absorb or emit only certain wavelengths of the light peculiar to that gas. In contrast, absorption spectra occur when passing white light through a cool, thin gas. The temperature and other conditions determine whether the lines are bright or dark (whether light is absorbed or emitted), but the wavelengths of the lines for any element are the same in either case. It is the precise pattern of wavelengths that makes the signature of each element unique. Liquids and solids can also generate spectral lines or bands, but they are broader and less well defined—and hence, more difficult to interpret. Spectral analysis, however, can be quite useful. It can, for example, be applied to light reflected off the surface of a nearby asteroid as well as to light from a distant galaxy.

The dark lines in the solar spectrum thus give evidence of certain chemical elements between us and the Sun absorbing those wavelengths of sunlight. Because the space between us and the Sun is pretty empty, astronomers realized that the atoms doing the absorbing must be in a thin atmosphere of cooler gas around the Sun. This outer atmosphere is not all that different from the rest of the Sun, just thinner and cooler. Thus, we can use what we learn about its composition as an indicator of what the whole Sun is made of. Similarly, we can use the presence of absorption and emission lines to analyze the composition of other stars and clouds of gas in space.

Such analysis of spectra is the key to modern astronomy. Only in this way can we “sample” the stars, which are too far away for us to visit. Encoded in the electromagnetic radiation from celestial objects is clear information about the chemical makeup of these objects. Only by understanding what the stars were made of could astronomers begin to form theories about what made them shine and how they evolved.

In 1860, German physicist Gustav Kirchhoff became the first person to use spectroscopy to identify an element in the Sun when he found the spectral signature of sodium gas. In the years that followed, astronomers found many other chemical elements in the Sun and stars. In fact, the element helium was found first in the Sun from its spectrum and only later identified on Earth. (The word “helium” comes from helios , the Greek name for the Sun.)

Why are there specific lines for each element? The answer to that question was not found until the twentieth century; it required the development of a model for the atom. We therefore turn next to a closer examination of the atoms that make up all matter.

The rainbow

Rainbows are an excellent illustration of the dispersion of sunlight. You have a good chance of seeing a rainbow any time you are between the Sun and a rain shower, as illustrated in [link] . The raindrops act like little prisms and break white light into the spectrum of colors. Suppose a ray of sunlight encounters a raindrop and passes into it. The light changes direction—is refracted—when it passes from air to water; the blue and violet light are refracted more than the red. Some of the light is then reflected at the backside of the drop and reemerges from the front, where it is again refracted. As a result, the white light is spread out into a rainbow of colors.

Rainbow refraction.

Refraction of sunlight by raindrops to produce a rainbow. There are three portions of this figure. Part (a) depicts an observer looking at a rainbow, with parallel lines of light from the Sun striking the rainbow from the left. These lines are refracted at an angle, theta, back to the observer, who is below and to the left of the rainbow. Part (b) shows a color photograph of a real rainbow in a cloudy sky over a lake. Part (c) shows schematically the refraction of light within a raindrop. Sunlight enters the round droplet from the left. The sunlight is refracted into a spectrum as it crosses from the air into the water, which is then reflected from the back of the droplet (on the right in the diagram) and the spectrum of color then exits the droplet at nearly the same direction from which it entered the drop.
(a) This diagram shows how light from the Sun, which is located behind the observer, can be refracted by raindrops to produce (b) a rainbow. (c) Refraction separates white light into its component colors.

Note that violet light lies above the red light after it emerges from the raindrop. When you look at a rainbow, however, the red light is higher in the sky. Why? Look again at [link] . If the observer looks at a raindrop that is high in the sky, the violet light passes over her head and the red light enters her eye. Similarly, if the observer looks at a raindrop that is low in the sky, the violet light reaches her eye and the drop appears violet, whereas the red light from that same drop strikes the ground and is not seen. Colors of intermediate wavelengths are refracted to the eye by drops that are intermediate in altitude between the drops that appear violet and the ones that appear red. Thus, a single rainbow always has red on the outside and violet on the inside.

Key concepts and summary

A spectrometer is a device that forms a spectrum, often utilizing the phenomenon of dispersion. The light from an astronomical source can consist of a continuous spectrum, an emission (bright line) spectrum, or an absorption (dark line) spectrum. Because each element leaves its spectral signature in the pattern of lines we observe, spectral analyses reveal the composition of the Sun and stars.

Questions & Answers

How long the duration was when the laws of physics became active after the big bang?And why the time is called plank's time?
Mostak Reply
how many galaxies in universe?
Shaikh Reply
10 to the power 11
Wwe
testing
Ahmad
thnx
Shaikh
if u can count all the sands on the beaches and on the deserts then u will know how much it will be.......some said more than 1,000,000,000 galaxies are there in our universe...
Gospel
it's ok bro
Wwe
I hope you will become a member of nasa
Wwe
just new in this area, from art background not science
Ahmad
what's ur name wwe
Shaikh
The Observable Universe Contains Between 200 Billion To 2 Trillion Galaxies.....
Adam
are u sure?
Caleb
It actually hasn't been proven, people have just made estimations.
Ariana
the thing is u can't count,maybe the our number system will collapse there...who knows?
Abdullah
What's the exact time when the laws of physics became active after the big bang ?
Mostak
Actually we still don't know the exact number of galaxies in the universe, since the universe is bigger than we can imagine and it is still expanding even bigger today than yesterday
Ismaee
hi i need a telescope would you help mee
Nauman Reply
i can only advice you to go to some museum
Gospel
wher is it?
Nauman
but before that.......... i wanna know where are you from and from which state...and if you are nearer to that of the museum or will be able to go then.,.. i donot have any more words.
Gospel
What Do Plan To Observe?
Adam
sorry . i am from asia
Nauman
Check on amazon.Celeston telescopes are good for beginners.
priyanshu
can yoy introduce your self
Nauman
can you
Nauman
Asia...? from which country you belong into ...,,is it India or where?
Gospel
Do You Want A Telescope With ALot Of Maintenance Or Zero Maintenance?
Adam
pakistan
Nauman
with alot offf
Nauman
Any second hand online stores in your area? great for unused Christmas gifts etc..
Collins
So You Want A Newtonian Reflector?
Adam
So what i would put for that answer ?
Abdulla Reply
The largest observatory complex in the world is on Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain on Earth. Whatare some factors astronomers consider when selecting an observatory site? Don’t forget practical ones.Should astronomers, for example, consider building an observatory on Denali (Mount McKinley) or MountEverest?
Abdulla Reply
i need help on the the second part
Abdulla
Should astronomers for example considered building an observatory on Denali (Mount Mckinley) or MountEverest ?
Abdulla
I would take into consideration. climate weather pattern.
basim
also, could an establishment be built and be able to sustain years of being beaten by the weather?
basim
so far Mount Everest to my understanding is a difficult mountain
basim
it is because of light pollution in the cities that the observatories are situated in extremely remote areas.
Ashish
Everest ist the tallest mountain
Paul
how far us milky way galaxy?
ShowsSpy Reply
oh man
madison
We are part of the Milky Way Galaxy. We are within it, so it's not really away from us. Our galaxy is 100,000 light years in diameter. The nearest big galaxy is Andromeda, around 2 million lightyears away.
Jignesh
its 200,000 light years
Gospel
Where is Rice University located?
Amanda Reply
it is in your vagina
world
that couldn't be any more wrong 😂😂
jay
what even is this conversation😂😂!?
Herrera
Show Some Class.....
Adam
Houston, Texas.....
Adam
Houston
Preston
what is the first step to take as far as getting into the field of astronomy?
john Reply
how are universe made up of?
madhu Reply
saksi
madhu
lanika
madhu
I think that your question is- What is the universe made up of?
priyanshu
Ever heard of matter?
priyanshu
Well,the universe is made up of matter and possibly antimatter
priyanshu
Actually,it's made up of matter's smaller units,fundamental particles
priyanshu
But for normal purposes,say that it's made of matter
priyanshu
If you're asking how was the universe made,
priyanshu
there are several theories,but the widely accepted one is the 'Big Bang Theory'.
priyanshu
In simple words,a veeeeeeery long time ago (20 billion years).
priyanshu
The universe was just inside a very small point.
priyanshu
Then,it started to expand.
priyanshu
It is still expanding today
priyanshu
But remember,it's just a theory,there is no hard and fast proof
priyanshu
oh d*mn😭😭😭😭 i cant do my astronomy quest
swagirl
up Down quarks atoms electrons proton neutrons
Blake
😭😭😭😭..
swagirl
usually in astronomy quest there's many math formula. i'm difficult on them
swagirl Reply
practice!
Collins
?
swagirl
what was the question? if you need any help CrashCourse/astronomy and physics channel on YouTube are a good help.
Collins
yeah like... you know venn diagram?
swagirl
yeah it's for sets
Vinit
***youtu.be/uR70knMr2Hg
Collins
this might help you understand Venn diagram. and yes they're sets of numbers.
Collins
tx for u
swagirl
why the dark side of moon never face us? because moon dont rotate? why tho
Rishabh Reply
im in 8th standard and my school teach us nothing about astronomy but i want to be an astronomer so i study from youtube and apps like this but sometimes i get language problems
Rishabh
dark**
Glory
side**
Glory
The Moon does actually rotate. It takes 27 days for the Moon to make a full rotation. Because it takes it so long and the Earth is rotating around the sun, it seems like the Moon is pretty much standing still. That's called "synchronous rotation".
steveh259
I ment to say "The Earth is orbiting around the sun"
steveh259
Tidal Locked.....
Adam
***svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4442
Collins
thats cool
Gospel
ya gives you a look at how the moon orbits around us too and a perspective of how fast we are going. also gives the moon phases for the year! enjoy 😁
Collins
yes you are absolutely correct, it just like something like the milk of heaven
Subhasish
the far side of the moon is not the dark side of the moon.
Shawn
Tidal Locking?
priyanshu
what phases of the moon occurs when spring tide?
Florence Reply
the moon has a 28 day cycle. you can download a moon calander or follow the pattern and make your own calendar. 1st full moon of the year 21/22nd Jan, its also a blood moon and a wolf moon. if this info helps at all. 😊
Collins
***svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4442
Collins
How to determine the velocity of light?
PARTHIB Reply
using this formula c=1/√absolute permeability×absolute permittivity of free space i.e. c=1/√8.854×10^-12×4π×10^-7~3×10^8ms^-1
Vidyashankar
what is mean by Big Bang
block Reply
What it means by Big Bang is how the world was made and came in to exist
Glory
The Big Bang Is The Best Explanation For What We See Around Us, And For The Origin Of The Universe, All Our Evidence Points To The Big Bang Theory..... And Was Proposed By A Belgian Priest.....
Adam
if the big bang theory is really true than i would like to know what exploded and where did it came from and where did the energy came from and where come from for the matter to expand into amd where did the organization come from and where did the information come from.........
Gospel
Some say that on the otherside of the singularity was a black hole. They say that at the other end of all black holes is another universe. Hence the multiverse. It's all theoretical at this point but less than a 100 years ago people believed that there was only 1 galaxy in the universe. So why
Rafael
should there be only 1 universe?
Rafael
universe.
Rafael
Big Bang is a theory on the origin of the universe.It says that the whole universe started as an infinitely dense and hot point,which expanded with time to form the universe in which we live today.
priyanshu
but if you study about string theory then you will come to know that before big bang there were string ( vibrating particles) which cause to form the conditions for big bang.
YOG
Hmm,actually,I dont know much about string theory,just a little.I just wanted to tell this guy what is the Big Bang Theory.
priyanshu
and according to string theory black holes are giant fuzzball of strings,there is no infinity dense singularity and no smooth horizon there is just only a ball of string
YOG
I think that is the problem. why don't we ask what was before the big bang. to explode there must be a reason or a change so if there is change there must be time also. science can't solve this . never . unless it accepts the existence of God . it is a matter of scientists will accept God. and every
KUMNEGER
For those arguing Religious Dogma over Science, regarding the Origins of the Universe, as well as the Origin of Man... Please pick up and read a Chemistry Book first, particularly in regard to Atomic Structure, Composition & the creation of other Elements from the Periodic Table... To start with.😉
Bill
Next you can look up the terms... Potential Difference, particularly associated with Electrical Charge or Energy & the Transfer of electrons from the outer Valence Shell of an Atom...and the production of ENERGY or Electrical Charge and Heat...😉😁😎
Bill
You should now begin to see the dots connecting themselves, from a scientific perspective, pretty quickly...😉😁😎
Bill
is astronomy a hard subject to learn because i want to be an astronomer
FNAF Reply
No it not it just takes time and effort to learn
Glory
if your already interested/observing, your already an astronomer ! The more you look and read the more you'll learn.
Collins
I want to become a scientist but my knowledge is very low. How I can improve my knowledge?
Wwe
any form of science courses, there's free crash course channel on you tube. I've learned alot from this channel. covers most topics, science: biology chemistry physics, astronomy, ranges to anatomy, history and many many more. it's a never ending subject!
Collins
suggest a channel as a example
Wwe
CrashCourse is the name of the channel and there is a picture of an apple. look through their play lists. They will have other related channels they follow also.
Collins
thank you so much
Wwe
your very welcome
Collins
No actually astronomy is a very interesting subject and it's not so hard if you'll make research and read some books you'll find it so simple
Ismaee
to become a actually astronomer you need to learn physics and after that you can take job of astronomy
Sir
Which books should I read as a beginner?
Aditya
Practice Key Terms 5

Get the best Astronomy course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax CNX. Apr 12, 2017 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11992/1.13
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Astronomy' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask