In his celebrated 1704 book Opticks, Isaac Newton describes shining a white light through a prism. When the light emerged, the famous physicist was surprised to see it broken into a dazzling rainbow of colors.
While this and other discoveries from Newton helped revolutionize the field of optics, it wasn’t until the 1800s that scientists understood how much information those rainbows contained. When passed through a prism, the light coming from a hot gas reveals its constituent elements in telltale lines of color.
In this image, taken during a thunderstorm over Paris, the forking lightning bolt heats surrounding air to between 36,000 and 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking apart air molecules into ionized plasma. The bright lines of the spectra reveals the presence of nitrogen and hydrogen in our atmosphere.
Image Credit: Denis Joye
Sep 21st, 2013 at 4:53 pm via the-nuclear-chaos