Release Date: May 21, 2018 1:00PM (EDT)
Media Use: Copyright
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About This Image
Spectroscopy is the key to revealing details that cannot be revealed through a simple picture.
Astronomical telescopes are famous for the images captured by their cameras, but they often also rely on instruments called spectrographs. Spectrographs — sometimes called spectroscopes or spectrometers — don’t produce beautiful images; their data is expressed as a jagged line on a chart. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s how telescopes like Webb will reveal details of atmospheres on other planets, the composition of stars, the motion of galaxies, and more.
A spectrograph breaks the light from a single object into its component colors the way a prism splits white light into a rainbow, allowing scientists to analyze the light and discover properties of the object emitting it.