Most chemistry teachers I know do flame tests with their students. It ties in well with many topics, is colorful and the kids enjoy seeing the colors and burning stuff. There are many applications. For years I always mentioned that astronomers use the idea of the flame test. They simply look at stars and examine the spectra from the light of these stars. They then match the spectra with the elements and then they can see and infer what elements are millions of light years away. I always mentioned this but never was able to demonstrate it. I would have needed a Ph.D. in Astronomy, a grant and travel to an exotic remote location to use a telescope.
#1 - M-27 as viewed with the “Hubble” colors assigned. No filters
#2 - M-27 as viewed by only looking at the Hydrogen alpha.
#3 - M-27 as viewed by only looking at it with the Oxygen III filter.
#4 - M-27 as viewed by only looking at it with the Sulfur filter.
Not any more. There is a cool site called "LightBuckets". LightBuckets have several really nice telescopes in different locations around the world. For a small fee you can "rent" a telescope, take some nice pictures and then get your pictures sent to you via email. Years ago I got a small PTA grant. I was able to rent some time on the site. One of the people in charge is married to a teacher. He helped me choose a nice astronomical object, M-27 the "Dumbell Nebula". I had about 2 hours of exposure time with multiple "filters" that would only view light that came from Sulfur, Oxygen and Hydrogen spectra. In other words, the spectra from these gases travel over 1000 light years to earth. By comparing pictures, one can start to infer structure in a huge gas cloud billions of miles away. Since I was a "newbie" the people at "LightBuckets" helped me with the photos. The kids can now use real chemistry to do what professional astronomers do...and the only thing it takes is a few bucks and a little patience. Check out my photos here...M-27 World's Biggest Flame Test.(link is external) Do you have a cool way to tie in chemistry with a neat application that gets students attention? Share your ideas in the comments....would love to check it out...
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Chad, were your students able to see the spectra? I do not see the pictures here.
Del - Thanks for the comment. In response to your question, I added more pictures to the post. Hope this helps. It blows my mind that we can do chemistry on stuff thousands and millions of light years away. Let me know how things go. I really think this could potentially turn into a great science fair project for a kid who would like to run with it. Thanks again.