Michelson A. A. Light waves and their uses (1903)

Home   Download (PDF, DjVu)   <<<     Page 61   >>>


Interference Methods in Spectroscopy 61

experiment. Not having sunlight, however, we shall take an electric arc and produce a spectrum. It will be noticed that this spectrum is not crossed by black lines, but that it is, at least for our purpose, practically continuous, as shown on Plate III, No. 1. Instead of using the electric light, let us try a source which emits but a single color. For this purpose we shall introduce into the electric arc a piece of sodium glass. Instead of a spectrum of many colors, we have one consisting mainly of one color, namely, of one yellow band. This yellow band in reality consists of two images of the slit, which are very close together, as can be shown by making the slit narrower, for then the two lines will also become narrower in proportion. If, instead of sodium glass, we introduce a rod of zinc, then, instead of one bright yellow line, the spectrum consists of lines in the red, green, and violet — two or three in the violet, one in the green, and one in the red. If we were to introduce copper, the spectrum would consist of quite a number of lines in the green; and if other substances were used, other lines would appear in the spectrum (cf. Plate III, Nos. 3 and 4).

Now, the lines produced by any one substance are found to occur always at a particular place in the spectrum, and are thus characteristic of the substance which produces them. If, instead of the electric light, we had used sunlight, we should find, as Fraunhofer did, that the spectrum of the sun is crossed by a number of fine, dark lines, perhaps as many as one hundred thousand, distributed throughout the spectrum. Some of the more important of these lines are shown in Fig.

54. The red end of the spectrum is at the bottom. Only the visible portion of the spectrum of the sun is shown in the figure. The pair of dark lines marked D coincide in position with the bright lines which are produced by sodium, as shown on Plate III, Nos. 2 and 3, and is an indication of the presence of sodium in the sun’s atmosphere.


Light Waves and Their Uses

As was remarked above, this sodium line is double, ?\ e., is really made up of two lines close together. The ’distance between these two lines is a convenient standard of measurement for our subsequent work. This distance is so small that a single prism scarcely shows that the line is double. As we increase the number of prisms, the lines are separated more and more widely. If, instead of a prism, we use one of the best grating spectroscopes, the two lines are separated so far that we might count sixty or eighty lines between; and this fact gives a fair idea of the resolving power of these instruments. If we have two lines so close together as to be separated by only one-hundredth of the distance between these two sodium lines, the best spectroscope will hardly be able to separate them; i. e., its limit of resolution has been reached. %

The difference in the character of the lines from different substances is illustrated in Fig. 55. The spectrum that you have just seen is a photograph from a drawing, not a photograph from a spectrum. These are from spectra. On the right is a portion of the spectrum of iroji, the other the corresponding portion of that of zinc. The enormous diversity in the appearance of the lines will be noted. Some are exceedingly fine—so fine that they are not visible at all; others are so broad that they cover ten or twenty times the distance between two sodium lines. This width of the lines depends somewhat upon the conditions under which the different substances are burned. If the incandescent vapor which sends out the lines is very fig. 54 dense, then the lines are very broad; if it is very