D e t r i c k  B r a n s t o n
Observer
National Solar Observatory, Kitt Peak

Detrick fine tunes the equipment to create and clean, clear set of spectra.

SPECTROSCOPY MADE CLEAR

Basically the light we get from the Sun is white light but, as you notice when you see a rainbow that is also white light but it's been broken up into its different colors. The thing about a diffraction grating, like we use here at Kitt Peak, is that it's much better than a water drop at dispersing light, and as you spread out those colors more and more you actually start to see dark lines in there. Basically that's because you have gases in the Sun's atmosphere that are much cooler than the regions below, and so those atoms of that gas absorb radiation from the much warmer regions and that causes the intensity dip in the light (which we see as a dark line.) Scientists have looked in labs down here on Earth at different types of gases to see how they appear, and from that they are able to tell that this line is, say, from hydrogen because we know hydrogen absorbs at this particular line.

THE FUTURE

I still want to be an astronaut... but that's still a way's off. Usually I believe that after getting a Ph.D. you work at a university for a while, getting more experience in research, and during that time I will apply to the astronaut program.


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