Rainbows, Prisms, & Spectra: Page 2.1

To learn more about Copernicus, click here

Good day to you. My name is Copernicus. I am one of the  astronomers who will guide you through these activities about light. So today, you will be an apprentice astronomer, that is, one who learns astronomy by doing something helpful.  

I come from Poland. In 1543 I published a book, based on my idea that the sun, our main source of light and warmth, is at the center of the solar system. This changed the fifteen-hundred-year-old belief that the sun went around the Earth.

In order to be an astronomer, it is important to understand light. Observing things in nature is very important. For example, when sunlight reflects off of the water droplets in on a misty day, the light bends to reveal the colors that it is made of. I am very interested in this, and would like you to help me learn more about it. Please keep a record of your studies in your notebook for me.

Note: The underlined words in this page are links to a glossary where you can read their definitions.

The bending is called refraction, and when this happens with many water droplets, you see a rainbow. Here is a picture of sunlight passing through raindrops to make a rainbow

To Do: What colors do you see in the rainbow?  Write them down, and note in what order they appear.

You can make a rainbow at home by spraying water from a hose or spray bottle into the air. If you stand with your back to the sun, you can see a rainbow in the mist coming from the hose or bottle. Make sure that the water lands on grass or some other plants so that you don't waste water when you do this activity.

Next: I have heard of a thing called a prism that can also bend light to make rainbows. You, fortunately, live in a time when these things are known, and can easily find out from others who came after me.  Please click the Next button to see Mr. Newton and learn about prisms.

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