Updated: Jul 28, 2019
Spectroscopy pertains to the dispersion of an object’s light into its component colors (i.e. energies). By performing this dissection and analysis of an object’s light, astronomers can infer the physical properties of that object (such as temperature, mass, luminosity and composition).
But before we hurtle headlong into the wild and woolly field of spectroscopy, we need to try to answer some seemingly simple questions, such as what is light? And how does it behave? These questions may seem simple to you, but they have presented some of the most difficult conceptual challenges in the long history of physics. It has only been in this century, with the creation of quantum mechanics that we have gained a quantitative understanding of how light and atoms work. You see, the questions we pose are not always easy, but to understand and solve them will unlock a new way of looking at our Universe.