Spectroscopy

Spectroscopy is the analysis of electromagnetic radiation received from astronomical objects and is generally presented as a graph of radiation amplitude versus wavelength. Amateur spectroscopy is presently restricted to the visual range, for cost and technical reasons, but that is hardly a limitation as the interested observer will find no end of interesting objects and events to observe.

Participating in amateur spectroscopy allows you to determine most of the properties of the brighter astronomical objects, such as chemical composition, temperature, spectral class, rotational velocity, red/blue shift and physical behaviour. Once you are reasonably skilled in recording and processing quality spectra the very rewarding, and real science, world of pro-am campaign collaboration is open to you, where you will be very welcome as professional astronomers desperately need your contributions to their research.

Given that nearly all our understanding of the known universe has been obtained through spectroscopic analysis it may appear surprising that very few amateurs have been involved, until recently. Until about 20 years ago the main limitation to amateur participation was the lack of and high cost of the instrumentation, very rudimentary software and a generally low level of knowledge and also fear of what is still perceived as a difficult subject … astrophysics. Thanks mainly to the efforts of a small number of skilled and dedicated French amateurs (the ARAS group, lead by Christian Buil) the availability of economic quality instruments, powerful free software and online forums has resulted, since the mid-1990’s, in a fast growing amateur involvement, initially in France and Germany but now also in the UK, USA and other countries. Until the last year or two it was possible to count the number of participating amateurs south of the equator on the fingers of one hand, but that is now changing and hopefully adding spectroscopy to the VSS list of tools and campaigns will accelerate the change.

Older archived projects can be found here:

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