Astronomical imaging spectroscopy   Leave a comment

Saturn has been unusually visible in the northern hemisphere, and prime viewing will continue for another few months. As I wrote previously, we can adapt ‘normal’ cameras to capture the spectra of objects. Here’s a collection of spectra we recently took:

Going from top to bottom is the sun (primary and secondary spectra), an incandescent lightbulb, a compact fluorescent lightbulb, saturn, and Porrima, the star located nearest to Saturn. The graphs show the actual spectra for each. It’s clear there is a difference between the reflected light off of Saturn and the emitted light from Porrima. The spectral resolution isn’t spectacular (each pixel covers about 0.3 nm), but it’s good enough.

What’s exciting (to me) about this image is that we can perform fairly sensitive measurements without using any special equipment- a camera and a $0.99 diffraction grating is all that was used. As other planets come into view, it will be interesting to compare spectra from them to look for differences- Mars should be especially interesting.

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Posted May 25, 2011 by resnicklab in Physics, pic of the moment, Science

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