ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • Physics

What Is The Difference Between Emission Spectra and Absorption Spectra?

Updated on June 19, 2017
1701TheOriginal profile image

Leonard Kelley holds a bachelor's in physics with a minor in mathematics. He loves the academic world and strives to constantly improve it.

Light and the Rainbow

Everything that you see around you is a result of light.

No, let me be clear about that.

It is not that light created all that you see but that without light you wouldn't be able to see anything at all. By having the light bounce off objects and into your eyes, you gain information about what you are seeing. Similarly, scientists use the light from objects to learn more about them. By using a spectrometer, or a wavelength diffuser, scientists can take a beam of light and break it down to the wavelengths that are present. This spread of wavelengths is called a spectrum. Depending on the type of object though they will be looking at a different type of spectrum.

These spectrum are best represented with the colors of the rainbow. Depending on the wavelength of the light, the color will vary with it. The red portions of light are low-wavelength and have less energy than the blue portion, which has short wavelengths. But unlike a rainbow, most spectrums will not contain the entire color range but may have little gaps in certain wavelengths. Other times, we may only see little portions of the spectrum and have the rest of it black. These are the two main types of spectrums known as absorption and emission, and both have equally important roles as tools in astronomy.

Source

Emission Spectrums

These spectra appear as thin bars in the spectrum, very spread out and sparse. The source of an emission spectrum is the result of excited electrons in a gas. These electrons in the elements orbit protons and neutrons (collectively forming the nucleus of the atom) almost like planets around a star. Depending on the state of the electron, it will move closer or further to the nucleus depending on the energy present. Electrons like to be in a low-energy state and typically will do anything to get there, including giving up energy. They release that energy in the form of light and then fall to the lower orbit. Depending on how much energy they give up, the type of light they give off will also be different. So sometimes a specific element can have multiple possible spectrums. Many people may wonder how long an element can generate such light for the electrons can only fall so far in their orbitals. Because of random collisions between each other and random particles, plenty of energy gets restored to the system and the process continues.

Absorption Spectrums

These spectra appear as a nearly complete spectrum with a few lines missing from place to place. The source of an absorption spectrum also lies in the state of the electrons but in this case it is them receiving energy. When photons hit objects it transfers energy to the particles present. Depending on the element present it will absorb a specific amount of energy. This absorption takes place with the electrons which upon receiving the energy will be able to achieve a higher-energy orbital. Those photons are no longer present and when we see the spectrum the gaps present are those wavelengths of light that have been absorbed by the element. These spectra typically occur in a high-light environment.

Uses of the Spectrum

Frequently, the study of these spectra is used in astronomy. When we look at the stars we frequently see absorption spectra. In fact, it was through the spectra of the sun that we noticed that wavelengths were missing. These lines in the spectra did not correspond to any known element at the time. Later on, it was determined that a new element had been discovered and it was named in honor of Helios (the sun god), hence why it is called helium.

Also, nebula have spectra profiles. Depending on the composition of the nebula (whether it is mostly gas or dust) and how many stars are present, we will get different types of spectra. We also use them on our studies of the planets. We can learn much about their chemical makeup and their history through spectra. Light truly reveals hidden wonders all around us.

© 2014 Leonard Kelley

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)