The refraction of light in glass objects and interference effects produced by gratings led to the early realization that white light consists of a continuum of color. The relationship between white light and color has been amply discussed in literature (e.g., by Goethe) as well as the physical sciences. It is therefore all the more remarkable that the spectral lines1 of the solar spectrum were not discovered until the nineteenth century (by W.H. Wollaston, 1808). These absorption lines (so-called because they represent light taken from the continuum by atomic absorption in the solar atmosphere) were studied extensively by Joseph von Fraunhofer (ca. 1820), whose name they now bear. Fraunhofer counted around 600 lines; today’s spectral atlases of sunlight list thousands.
KeywordsSpectral Line Absorption Line Spectral Type Stellar Atmosphere Balmer Line
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References and Bibliography
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