All ages

Reflected Light

Most surfaces are coloured by absorbing some colours of light and reflecting others.

How to Use It

Look through the spectroscope to see which colours of light each pigment absorbs or reflects.

What Science Tells Us

The spectroscope contains a diffraction grating which splits light up into a rainbow. The printed backboard contains some common colours: red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, yellow, and white. The light reflected from these panels enters the spectroscope and diffracts, resulting in a spectrum that shows which colours have been reflected and which have been absorbed.

Things to Try or Ask

  • What colours would you expect a black surface to reflect? What about a grey surface?
  • How do other objects or colours around you look?

Finding the Science in Your World

The objects around you all behave in a similar way to the coloured stripes in this exhibit—we see the combined colours that they reflect.