Thursday, June 21, 2012

Kirchhoff's three laws of spectroscopy

Gustav Robert Kirchhoff (1824-1877)
wikimedia
  1. A hot solid object produces light with a continuous spectrum.
  2. A hot tenuous gas produces light with spectral lines at discrete wavelengths (i.e. specific colors) which depend on the energy levels of the atoms in the gas. (emission spectrum)
  3. A hot solid object surrounded by a cool tenuous gas (i.e. cooler than the hot object) produces light with an almost continuous spectrum which has gaps at discrete wavelengths depending on the energy levels of the atoms in the gas. (absorption spectrum)

Kirchhoff did not know about the existence of energy levels in atoms. The existence of discrete spectral lines was later explained by the Bohr model of the atom, which helped lead to quantum mechanics
wikipedia

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