Emission Spectroscopy (pam collins)


Pam Collins

John Burroughs High School, Burbank CA


The emission spectrum of a chemical element is the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation emitted by the element's atoms.

Each element's emission spectrum is unique.  Therefor, spectroscopy can be used to identify the elements in matter of unknown composition.  This is one of the ways we figure out the composition of stars.


2c. Students know the evidence indicating that all elements with an atomic number greater than lithium have been formed by nuclear fusion in the stars.


Materials needed

spectroscopy device

emission tubes



1. Plug in spectroscope device

2. Carefully place an emission tube into the device

3. Turn off the lights for better viewing

4. View emission spectrum through spectroscope

5. Students draw and color emission patterns


Provide a solid scientific explanation for the principles illustrated by the demonstration equipment. 


  1. How is emission spectra produced?
  2. How might emission spectra be used to study stars?
  3. Colorful light emissions are part of every day life.  Where have you observed colorful light emissions?

Everyday examples of the principles illustrated

Students always ask "How do we know what stars are made of if we have never been to one?"  This lab activity shows them how we can use evidence from Earth and apply it indirectly to situations that we can not physically get to.





YouTube Video


Virtual Spectroscopy Lab

Spectra Facts