Links to useful resources

  • New to spectroscopy?  Want to share your excitement with your friends? Tom is now available to give presentations at one of your club meetings. His talks are a great introduction into the field: link.
  • Yahoo RSpec Users group: The RSpec user group has some very knowledgeable members. This is a good place to ask questions about RSpec or spectroscopy in general.
  • If you have questions about what equipment you need to get started, check out our Getting Started page.
  • RSpec comes with a complete set tutorial videos. You can view them in the program from its Help | Video Library menu. Even before you download and install RSpec, you can view the tutorial videos on-line here.
  • Robin Leadbeater is the designer of the Star Analyser grating. Robin’s creativity, skill, and passion as well as tireless contributions to the amateur community have had an enormous impact on the evolution of astronomical spectroscopy. His site is a gold mine of wonderful examples and tips. Don’t miss it, or the StarAnalyser Yahoo Group: link.
  • Sample video file: Even while you’re waiting for clear skies or your new diffraction grating to arrive, you can begin learning RSpec (even the trial version!) by downloading a sample avi video file from our site. Here’s a link to a short video of Vega: link. You can use this file to experiment with RSpec and to follow along with the tutorials. (Hint: Put a check mark next to “Loop” in RSpec to keep this short video looping.) Note: some computers have trouble playing this video. If you have problem with the video playing, download and install the codec using the file at this link (which we got from this site.) You can also download a supernova spectra file to experiment from here.
  • Yahoo Amateur Spectroscopy: This group is for the discussion of amateur spectroscopy topics including equipment, techniques, calibration, data acquisition and data analysis.
  • Yahoo Astronomical Spectroscopy: This group is focused on supporting amateur astronomers interested in Spectroscopy. Its aim is to provide resource material and assistance to both the novice and the more experienced amateur.
  • Yahoo Astronomical Amateur Spectroscopy. This is a combination French and English group.
  • Christian Buil’s site contains a wealth of very helpful information about spectroscopy. Christian is one of the leaders in the field. He’s a pioneer who frequently leads the way into new technologies. His site has countless examples of the kind of deep, high-quality, scientific work that he does.
  • Paton Hawksley Education Ltd: manufacturer of the Star Analyser grating spectroscope for astronomers. We sell this grating here: link.
  • Rainbow Optics: manufacturer of the Star Spectroscope 200 l/mm grating. Amateurs have gotten good results with this grating. However, having twice lines/mm doesn’t mean that it’s “twice as good!” In fact, the SA-100 was deliberately designed with the lower 100 l/mm dispersion because this makes it more likely that you can include the star image in your spectrum images. This makes calibrating your spectra considerably easier. We offer a Star Analyser 200 line/mm grating that has a better design for those situations that it’s needed. For our more detailed discussion of these gratings, see this link.
  • David Haworth, like some others listed here, has been doing high quality spectroscopy for more than ten years. He has a great site with lots of good information and links to other sites.
  • Ken Hudson does a really great job in blogging a wide range of astronomy topics. Check out his blog at this link.


We don’t want to talk you out of buying books, but we wanted you to know that getting started is so easy that you may not need any of these books. Take a look at our on-line calculator (link) to easily determine how to mount a Star Analyser grating. Then simply review the first few videos on our video page (link).

We’re always available via our Contact Form (link) to answer questions. Don’t be shy about asking. The Inglis, and Robinson books are helpful in understanding the science of spectroscopy. But we think you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to get started without a lot of complicated reading.

Astronomical Spectroscopy for Amateurs, Ken Harrison – This is a great book. Ken is a leader in the amateur community with a great deal of experience is all aspects of the field. His book contains a lot of valuable information for the beginner as well as the more experienced amateur spectrographer.

Grating Spectroscopes and How to Use Them (The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series), Ken Harrison  – In this follow-up book, Harrison continues to offer valuable practical advice on getting started with a small telescope or even a simple DSLR.

Spectroscopy: The Key to the Stars: Reading the Lines in Stellar Spectra (Patrick Moore’s Practical Astronomy Series), Keith Robinson – Great book! One of my favorites. Very little math. Explains the physics behind stellar spectra. Amazon link.

Practical Amateur Spectroscopy, Stephen Tonkin – A bit dated, but still useful. Amazon link.

Astrophysics is Easy! An Introduction for the Amateur Astronomer (Patrick Moore’s Practical Astronomy Series), Mike Inglis – A bit more technical, but still very accessible reading, in spite of the lame title! I re-read this book periodically and always learning something new. A great addition to your library! Amazon link.

Observer’s Guide to Stellar Evolution, Mike Inglis – Another good entry-level book that covers the fundamentals. This is also one of my favorites. Amazon link.

Measuring the Universe: The Cosmological Distance Ladder (Springer Praxis Books / Space Exploration), Stephen Webb – This is a great book! It’s a bit technical and a decade old, but don’t let that get in the way! It’s a wonderful overview of how we calculate very large distances. It starts out with parallax that is used on nearby objects. And it concludes with how we measure the most distant objects in the universe. I keep coming back to this book because it incorporates so many different disciplines in astronomy. And, of course, spectroscopy plays a big part! Amazon link.

Stellar Spectral Classification, Gray and Corbally – This is a detailed, 600-page book that may be more than you need. But, it’s comprehensive. I’ve learned a lot from it and I’m glad I have it in my collection. You may want to check it out at the library or bookstore before purchasing it. James Kaler (author of Stars and Their Spectra) says on the book’s back cover:

“… fills a huge need by providing a spectacularly good discussion of stellar spectra. With a highly detailed and digital view of the modern art of classification… there is not much on the subject that one cannot find in this well-written and richly illustrated volume.” Amazon link.

A Spectroscopic Atlas of Bright Stars: A Pocket Field Guide (Astronomer’s Pocket Field Guide), Martin – Two pages for each of 54 stars. For each star, there is a spectrum and profile graph with key features called out.  Amazon link.

The Sky is Your Laboratory, Robert Buchheim – This book touches on spectroscopy, but also has a wide range of other interesting projects. I’ve included it here because it is aimed at amateurs who, like you, are interested in data. You’ll find it has a very readable discussion in the how-to’s in a variety of projects, including chapters on astrometry, photometry, variable star observing, occultations, meteors. When necessary, the author includes very accessible math that may be necessary for understanding the projects and approaches. There should be more books like this! Amazon link.

The Revival of Amateur Spectroscopy, Maurice Gavin – This is a free, on-line article from more than ten years ago by one of the original amateur spectroscopers. Link.

Stars and their Spectra: An Introduction to the Spectral Sequence, Kaler – This is one of the “standards” — and rightly so. As Amazon itself says,

“[This book] begins by introducing the reader to the fundamental properties of stars and the formation of spectra, before proceeding to the concept and history of stellar classification. The following chapters each look at a different star type: starting with cool M, the discussion extends to cover new stellar classes L and T, before advancing through type O to finish with extraordinary classes.The book concludes with a skillful integration of all the data, tracing the evolution of stars and their place in the Universe. With modern digital spectra and updates from two decades of astronomical discoveries, this accessible text is invaluable for both amateur astronomers and students.” Amazon link.

Novae & Spectroscopy,  François Teyssier – Free,on-line article is a good resource on, well, … you guessed it: novae and spectroscopy! This is a computer-generated translation from the French, so it’s a bit unpolished, but readable. Thanks, François for this valuable article!

Scientific Astrophotography, Gerald R. Hubbell – The subtitle of this book says it all: “How Amateurs Can Generate And Use Professional Imaging Data.” Although this book only has a short section on spectroscopy, we highly recommend it for anyone doing any kind of astronomical imaging. Hubbel has pulled together in 330 pages a comprehensive and valuable discussion of all aspects of imaging.

To quote Scott Robert’s forward:

“The structure and methods described in Scientific Astrophotography provide you with the opportunity to take a fresh approach to this discipline of study and put what you have learned to use in a a real-world activity…. Hubbell lays down a road map to penetrate and methodically correct the root causes of problems often encountered when acquiring images that will allow you to obtain high-quality data that can be used in research… The book also has detailed descriptions of how to complete each step along the way, full descriptions of how and why things work they way they do, and forms to record your notes, which are so critical to research.” Amazon link.

Resolution limitations, Doug West – At a certain point, increasing the lines/mm in a grating in a slit-less system produce no increase in resolution. If you’re thinking of trying a 300 or 600 line/mm grating, West’s paper may dissuade you from the effort. Link.

RSpec in the News!

See RSpec in the news: link.