Timmy Telescope Solar Astronomy Education

Electromagnetic Spectrum

See also: Current News and Research about Spectroscopy

Hubblecast 133: Spectroscopy with Hubble. How does spectroscopy work and what can the study of light tell us about the Universe? How are astronomers using spectroscopy to study exoplanets in the search for life?

Learn about the amazing women at Harvard University Observatory known as the "Harvard Computers".

STEM Activity 1: "UV Light Detectors"

UV color changing bead bracelet Purpose: Children use UV color changing beads to observe the effect of UV on their skin. This craft activity should be done inside or under a canopy if possible, away from direct sunlight.

Supplies needed per child: UV color changing beads, chenille stems (any color), snack size plastic bags.

Age level: easy enough for preschoolers. They are always so surprised when the white beads change color. Older children can use the beads to test the effectiveness of various sunscreens and/or sun glasses to block UV radiation.

Notes: Each student receives 5 different colored beads. I use a snack size plastic bag to prepackage one set of beads/child. This avoids children grabbing handfuls of beads and assures that each child receives a complete set. The beads are threaded onto chenille stems (pipe cleaners). We provide the lens and sunscreen. Beads can be purchased online:

Additonal Resources:

STEM Activity 2: Spectrum Game

Preparation [Use cardstock or photopaper]

  1. Print out spectra and mount on heavy cardboard.
  2. Print out Level 1 and Level 2 Mystery Spectra Cards.
  3. Laminate Mystery Spectra Cards and cut apart.
  4. Level 2 only: Clip together cards 1A and 1B, etc.

Game Directions

Additional materials to use with spectroscope

Sun in Different Wavelengths

  1. Flares in different wavelengths [left] Flares in different wavelengths. [right] How SDO sees the sun pdf | more information
  2. How SDO sees the sun pdf | more information
    NASA- Jewel Box Sun video

Visible Light Spectra of the Elements

STEM Activity 3: Sun Catcher

sun catcher from recycled CDs

Purpose: Learn that sunlight is made up of various wavelengths (colors). The CD acts as a prism and separates the sunlight into a rainbow of different colors.

Supplies needed per child: 2 recycled CDs, 12”-15” of ribbon or string, 6 small pony beads, 1 larger bead for the end, sandwich-size plastic bag to holds all the pieces, instruction page. School glue and masking tape for assembly. Instruction page will need to be duplicated and cut (4 per sheet).

Age level: elementary school age children. Preschoolers can manage with assistance, but often get frustrated.

Notes: Preassemble the kits. Since the glue requires some drying time, two small pieces of masking tape are used to lightly secure the CDs together. Once assembled the plastic bag can be reused to carry the Suncatcher home.
Optional method: Eliminate the beads and just tie two CDs-shiny side out together.

Additional Resources


comparison of the spectra of different star types
Comparison of our Sun with different star types using the RSpec Explorer. Download larger size