Practical Spectroscopy – everyone can read the secrets in starlight £35

With Hugh Allen

Saturday 24th March 10am – 4.30pm at Tooley's Boatyard, Banbury


A spectrum is worth a thousand pictures. There is a code hidden in the light around us and it is revealed by spreading the light into its spectrum with a spectroscope:

Spectroscopy was once the domain of professional astronomers, but advances in the equipment and a reduction in the cost are bringing it well within the reach of amateurs.

Spectrum of the brightest star Sirius captured by Hugh Allen on 11th January 2015, colour synthesis in RSpec

The course assumes no previous experience or specialist knowledge. It will put astronomical spectroscopy into both a historic and a scientific context. It will introduce some of the equipment and techniques used by amateurs today, and the results that can be achieved.

There will be practical, hands-on demonstrations of spectroscopy in action, with several case studies to show how cracking the code can reveal so much about the chemistry, temperature and motion:

The content of the course will provide some answers to these questions:
– What is the nature of the code hidden in starlight?
– Who laid the foundations of astronomical spectroscopy?
– How do spectroscopes work and how are spectra captured?
– Why is it interesting to examine the light in your kitchen and living room?
– What amateur equipment is out there today?
– How is software used to process the spectrum and crack the code?
– Where can help and support be found?

The course aims to inspire both practicing and armchair astronomers. It will be relaxed and interactive and there won't be an exam at the end!

I am a passionate scientist who has spent over 25 years working in the printing ink industry. I went to Reading Grammar School and studied Natural Sciences at Downing College, Cambridge, specialising in chemistry. My interest in astronomy was sparked by the 70's Voyager missions and it became a passion (some would say obsession) when my wife bought me a telescope 7 years ago.

I capture modest astrophotos and share my own perspective on the science and history of astronomy through Facebook groups like the Online Astronomy Society. I also love giving talks through my local astronomy group, The Wells & Mendip Astronomers, and I am a member of the Herschel Society in Bath. Spectroscopy is now my latest adventure in amateur astronomy, and is perhaps the most exciting because of its strong appeal to the chemist in me!
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