It is a suitable instrument to decompose the light in its spectrum, by means of a diffraction grating or a prism. Before the analysis with the spectroscope, this was done with the naked eye, but with the invention of photography the spectra are captured on a photographic emulsion.

Dispersion can be performed by refraction (prism spectroscope) or by diffraction (network spectroscope).

The prism spectroscope is formed by a slit through which light penetrates, a set of lenses, a prism and an eye lens. The light to be analyzed passes first through a collimating lens, which produces a narrow and parallel beam of light, and then through the prism, which separates this beam into the different monochromatic radiations (colors) that compose it. The image of the slit is focused with the eyepiece. The spectral lines that constitute the spectrum are not really a series of images of the slit.

The network spectroscope scatters the light using a diffraction network instead of a prism. A diffraction net is a specular surface of metal or glass on which many very fine parallel lines have been drawn with a diamond. It has greater dispersal power than a prism, so it allows a more detailed observation of the spectra.

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