Jump to content


CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


Getting Started in Spectroscopy?

  • Please log in to reply
5 replies to this topic

#1 mikemarotta


    Vostok 1

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 149
  • Joined: 09 Dec 2019
  • Loc: Austin, Texas

Posted 04 January 2021 - 10:34 AM

I may have more interest in this than in mere observing, as much as I do enjoy that. I mean, the stars are pretty at any magnification but you do not know (much) more than you did before. So, how did you learn to do this?

Organic Astrochemist, on 21 Nov 2020 - 2:30 PM, said:
Here's what I was able to get in about half an hour on RV Tauri (mag 9.5V) in my horribly light polluted backyard with my 8" f/4 and an ALPY 600.
The Na I D doublet also taught me a lesson.
The resolving power for this spectrum was ~1100, so I should be able to see some separation between the two sodium lines and 589.0 & 589.6 nm, but the peak rising up between the two was actually produced by light pollution. With only 30 minutes on a mag 10 star I was getting a S/N of betwen 10 and 20. This let me see a lot of objects that night, but there was a cost.


Bachelor #2, same question. I have looked at the equipment for sale at Field Tested Systems, but they don't sell books. I have a standard university freshman book in astronomy (Chaisson McMillan) and it has a chapter on Spectroscopy. But it doesn't tell you how to do this anymore than it discusses the eyepieces suitable for a fast Newtonian. So, how did you learn how to do this?

robin_astro, on 22 Nov 2020 - 3:26 PM, said:
The effect of 0.66 reddening on a K0iii spectrum. The result resembles your RV Tau spectrum

Attachment k0iii_with_0p66_extinction.png

ISIS has a reddening/dereddening tool, (under the misc tab) that you could try it on your spectrum



To me, it seems like an attainable goal for any amateur astronomer. In fact, the AAS opened up to amateurs in 2016 with a special membership category. AAS publicist Rick Fienberg explained that 100 years ago, amateurs excluded themselves for lack of sophisiticated equipment in photography and spectroscopy. But that changed, back in the 1980s in fact. So, it was about time that the AAS opened the doors again. But as I said above, support seems lacking. I mean, the first time that I went to our club's dark sky sight, the outreach chair spent an hour with me pointing out constellations with his green laser. Having grown up and living in the city, I was surprised (awe-struck) at how easily they are lost. I felt like Dave Bowman in 2001: "My God! It's full of stars!" Anyway, there's no one in our club who can talk for an hour about spectroscopy. What do you suggest?

  • lee14 likes this

#2 Organic Astrochemist

Organic Astrochemist


  • *****
  • Posts: 1,074
  • Joined: 10 Jan 2015

Posted 04 January 2021 - 11:54 AM

I learned by doing. Anyone else can do what I have done.

I used a telescope, a camera and a Star Analyzer 100. That would be one way to start.

I have gotten great value from RSpec. There are free software available.

I have also been patient with myself.

There are many knowledgeable people who read and post here, so post your results to get advice to improve.

Good luck!

#3 gregj888



  • -----
  • Posts: 2,624
  • Joined: 26 Mar 2006
  • Loc: Oregon

Posted 14 January 2021 - 12:44 AM

The SA-100 is a great way to start or Spectre spectroscope from QuInsight.  You can learn the ropes and exposures aren't overly long.


If you are into building instruments there are a number of plans and descriptions online.   One of the easiest is the LowSpec, which is 3D printable.  Stick with 300 or 600 gratings but it's also a good starting point and a bit more sophisticated.


There's quite a bit on YouTube and on various web sites.   AAVSO has some information and there are several good books but I tend to get more from the on-line community.


There are a couple of groups on Group.io for astronomical Spectroscopy and they tend to be helpful to the new folks.


I'm more into building suff so can help there if you are interested, just let me now what you are thinking.

#4 RazvanUnderStars



  • *****
  • Posts: 1,135
  • Joined: 15 Jul 2014
  • Loc: Toronto, Canada

Posted 16 January 2021 - 11:07 PM

I'd suggest this book:



Edited by RazvanUnderStars, 16 January 2021 - 11:09 PM.

#5 robin_astro



  • -----
  • Posts: 1,224
  • Joined: 18 Dec 2005

Posted 17 January 2021 - 10:53 AM

I can suggest


Christian Buil's website. (This is where I started in spectroscopy 18 years ago and if it is not there somewhere it probably is not worth knowing about !)



The resources on the BAA website



for an introduction Hugh Allen's "From Kitchens to comets" webinar

for a complete overview of the process of producing research quality spectra David Boyd's "Scientific Analysis of Amateur Spectra"

and for a wider view of various aspects of amateur spectroscopy from a practical viewpoint the "Spectroscopy Workshop at the Norman Lockyer Observatory"


Francois Cochard's book "successfully starting in Astronomical spectroscopy" is a good detailed practical step by step guide to producing research quality spectra, reviewed here by David Boyd




The ARAS forum is a good place to keep up with the kind of research that advanced amateurs are currently doing in this area





Edited by robin_astro, 17 January 2021 - 10:54 AM.

  • gregj888 and msvtrove like this

#6 robin_astro



  • -----
  • Posts: 1,224
  • Joined: 18 Dec 2005

Posted 17 January 2021 - 11:15 AM

I also talk generally about the development of the Star Analyser and how it can be  used in the first part of the talk "using low resolution spectroscopy to confirm and classify supernovae" on the BAA resources page




Edited by robin_astro, 17 January 2021 - 11:15 AM.

CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.

Recent Topics

Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics