Demonstrating Absorption Spectra Using Commercially Available Incandescent Light Bulbs
In introductory astronomy courses, I typically introduce the three types of spectra: continuous, absorption line, and emission line. It is standard practice to use an ordinary incandescent light bulb to demonstrate the production of a continuous spectrum, and gas discharge tubes to demonstrate the production of an emission line spectrum. The concept of an absorption spectrum is more difficult for students to grasp. A variety of commercially available light bulbs can be used to demonstrate absorption spectra. Here I discuss the use of specialty incandescent light bulbs to demonstrate the phenomenon of absorption of the continuous spectrum produced by a hot tungsten filament. The bulbs examined include the GE Reveal bulb, yellow anti-insect lights, colored party bulbs, and an incandescent “black light” bulb. The bulbs can be used in a lecture or laboratory setting.
Birriel, J. J. 2008, Astronomy Education Review, 7(2), p.147–157