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How to Make a Spectroscope

If you're itching to discover the wonders of the world around you, this guide will have you gazing at the unique spectrum fingerprint of each element right at home.


  • : Always use caution when using a utility knife and have an adult help if needed.
  • Step 1: Trace the viewing port location Place the CD or DVD outside the box against one side about 1/2 inch from the bottom. Trace the small spindle hole in the middle with a black marker -- this is the height of the viewing port.
  • TIP: A tall shoe box will work as long as it is taller than the disc.
  • Step 2: Finish the viewing port Trace the toilet paper tube circle over the CD spindle hole, move the tube over 1/2 inch and trace another circle. Connect both circles to make an oval and cut out the shape using a utility knife.
  • Step 3: Tape toilet paper tube Tape the toilet paper tube halfway through the port at a 60 degree angle using plain cellophane tape and a protractor. Seal around the tube with aluminum tape or tin foil and glue to block out all light.
  • TIP: Paint the inside of the box black for better viewing.
  • Step 4: Cut out the light slit Turn the box a quarter turn counterclockwise and use the CD to measure another hole. Cut out a small slit through the circle 1/2 inch wide and 2 inches tall.
  • Step 5: Tape the razor blades together Tape both razor blades together on the box so their sharp edges almost touch. Make a very small sliver of light through the slit cut in the box.
  • TIP: If the light is too dim, your blades are too close; if the spectra is blurry, your blades are too far apart.
  • Step 6: Tape the disc inside the box Tape the CD or DVD inside the box opposite the razor blade slit with the rainbow or prism side out. Try to offset the CD from the box wall the same distance as your razor blades.
  • Step 7: Seal box Seal the box completely using aluminum tape, or foil and glue. Peer through the toilet paper tube, point the razor blades at a light source, and gaze at the color spectrum of the world around you.
  • FACT: Astronomers use powerful spectroscopes and computers to study the composition of stars and planets millions of light years away from Earth.

You Will Need

  • CD or DVD disc
  • Cardboard box
  • Ruler
  • Black marker
  • Toilet paper tube
  • Utility knife
  • Cellophane tape
  • Protractor
  • Aluminum tape or foil and glue
  • 2 razor blades
  • Black paint (optional)

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