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2-1 Sun's Spectrum

Spectrum of the Sun


You can break up sunlight into its colors with a glass or plastic prism, or with a diffraction grating (a sheet of plastic ruled with very tiny lines).


  • mirror
  • prism or diffraction grating and cardboard slit
  • colored filter gels

Strategies for Investigation

  1. Place a mirror in the sunlight on the windowsill and close all the shades to darken the room, so that only the reflected beam of sunlight enters the room.

  2. Use the prism or diffraction grating to break up the light into a spectrum of colors on the ceiling.

  3. When the spectrum is displayed on the ceiling, place a colored filter gel in the beam. How does the spectrum change? Which color(s) does a red filter absorb? A green filter? A blue filter? If you could see ultraviolet light, where would it be in the spectrum
Visible light is just one small part of the entire spectrum of energy from the Sun, which includes infrared, ultraviolet, radio waves, microwaves, x-rays, and gamma rays. All of these are the same form of energy called electromagnetic radiation. The entire electromagnetic spectrum is described in the GSS student guide, Energy Flow.

 sunlight passing through a prism