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CD Spectrometer

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    The Exploratorium

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CD Spectrometer

In this activity, learners use a compact disc to make a spectrometer, an instrument used to measure properties of light. Learners use their spectrometer to view a continuous spectrum produced by fluorescent light. This lesson guide also includes instructions on how to build a spectroscope from a cereal box.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • a compact disk
  • a cardboard tube 25 cm long or longer
  • flat cardboard large enough to cover the end of the tube
  • razor knife (e.g. x-acto)
  • tape
  • fluorescent light


  • Life Sciences
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Vision
  • Mathematics
    • Geometry
      • Plane Geometry
    • Measurement
      • Circles
  • Physical Sciences
    • Light and Optics
      • Electromagnetic Spectrum
      • Sunlight and Color
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
      • Diffraction and Interference
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Music


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Doherty, Paul


  • All Rights Reserved, Exploratorium, ©2000


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