Spectrometer Calibration

Notes on DADOS Calibration Lamp from Baader Planetarium Website

The following explains why the light kept switching on and off when Lee and I changed the plug at RAG mid-monthly meeting last Friday!

It also explains the black ring under the lamp – this appears to be so that it can fit over 2 inch end of a spectrograph – will it do same on my CCDSPEC?



Notes on DADOS Calibration lamp

The Neon calibration lamp only shines in the dark due to a twilight switch. So incidence of extraneous light while taking spectra of this Neon lamp is avoided. Please fix the Neon lamp with its adapter directly at the 2 inch entrance of the DADOS spectrograph to focus DADOS and to take reference spectra. The brightness of this Neon lamp is adequate in this configuration.

However, the lamp is too faint to be used in front of a telescope. The visually perceived color “Neon red” is a quite unique color between dark-orange and light-red due to the spectral distribution of the emission lines.

RELCO Starter Spectrum from CCDSPEC at LRO graphed against Three Hills Observatory ALPY data and with lines identified including those used by ISIS for calibration

On the RELCO starter spectrum below, my CCDSPEC spectrum is graphed against the ALPY spectrum from Three HIlls Observatory from Robin above, and I have marked the lines I identified together with those lines that ISIS use for calibration – this gives some more lines for me to use at LRO.

Comment from Robin at Three Hills Observatory (https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/226911-neon-lamp-to-set-spectroscope/), “Your spectrograph has roughly the same resolution as the ALPY (R~500) and these lines are known to be reliable and give a very accurate calibration to better than 1A with the ALPY.  I have attached a list of wavelengths of the 13 lines. They correspond to lines identified in the spectrum by Richard Walker using his DADOS with 200l/mm grating (R 900).  If you identify as many of the lines in your spectrum as possible and make a 3rd order fit,  any wrongly identified lines will immediately stand out as they will have larger errors.”

Lines used by ISIS to calibrate ALPY

  • 3946.1A
  • 4158.59A
  • 4510.73A
  • 4545.05A
  • 4657.9A
  • 4764.87A
  • 4965.08A
  • 5400.56A
  • 5852.49A
  • 6266.49A
  • 6506.53A
  • 7147.04A
  • 7383.98A


Attempting to calibrate RELCO Starter against 12V Compact Fluorescent Lamp in order to work out the wavelengths of the main lines on RELCO spectrum

Today, I have had a go at calibrating the homemade RELCO Starter bulb calibration lamp I made against 12V compact fluorescent lamp bulb in order to determine the wavelengths of the main lines on the CCDSPEC spectrum of the RELCO bulb.

Download calibration files from analysis by clicking on link below – calibration files RELCO vs CFL CCDSPEC no telescope 30/9/2018:

Spectrum RELCO Starter on CCDSPEC without telescope 300918

Also look at https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/226911-neon-lamp-to-set-spectroscope/?tab=comments#comment-3521335 to find out what happened when I tried to compare the lines I identified below with the atlas of lines from http://www.ursusmajor.ch/downloads/sques-relco-sc480-calibration-lines-5.0.pdf – sadly they don’t seem to match!


RELCO Starter Bulb spectrum taken with CCDSPEC Spectrometer (below):

Spectrum of compact fluorescent light bulb taken with CCDSPEC (below):

Graphing both above spectra together:

Calibrating spectra of both RELCO and CFL using above two lines in RSPEC gives following calibrated spectra:

The following is my final labelled image showing main lines on RELCO starter bulb spectrum (below):

Spectroscopy of Arcturus – re-analysis of spectrum from 4/8/2018 on 26/9/2018

Hi All

The following images are of my analysis of a spectrum of Arcturus I took using my CCDSPEC spectrometer. On this occasion, I used my Sky Watcher Equinox Pro 120mm OTA on EQ6 Pro (although I was hand guiding it rather than using the drives). The camera is a QHY6 and the acquisition software was EZCAP which comes with the camera. I took the spectrum in Lichfield, Staffordshire, UK on 4/8/2018 and analysed it 26/9/2018 using RSPEC software.

Attached are:

  1. Uncalibrated spectrum line graph (x-projection).
  2. Calibrated spectrum of Arcturus – I used an amateur spectrum on the internet to provide three data points for the RSPEC Calibration Wizard (linear approximation).
  3. A plot of my calibrated spectrum against the closest reference spectrum I could find in RSPEC. Arcturus is spectral type K1.5IIIFe-0.5 but closest match I could find on RSPEC was K1iv, so I have plotted against that. In spite of the slight differences, I have been able to identify almost exact matches for range of lines between the two spectra – it amazes me how amateurs can obtain incredibly precise data using spectroscopes on their very modest backyard setups!
  4. From this I have generated a calibration graph for my own future use which I have also posted here – if you have a better/alternative one you have created please do upload it in response to my post here.


Comparison of spectra of 12V Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

The 12V Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs I have purchased come in two flavours – 2700K and 6400K (later is daylight). Tonight, I took spectra of both types using my CCDSPEC spectrometer to determine whether the peaks shown on the spectra were the same. It turns out that they are and hence can be readily used for calibration purposes on my spectrometers. The main difference between the two is the intensity of the peaks with the 2700K light bulb having much lower intensities than the 6400K light bulbs.

Information on different colour temperatures of compact fluorescent bulbs can be found at http://www.lamptech.co.uk/Documents/FL%20Colours.htm


2700K spectrum:

6400K spectrum:

The Compact Fluorescent Bulb Spectrum as a standard calibration spectrum for low resolution spectrometers in astronomy, and comparisons with alternative calibration light standards

I have annotated the following compact fluorescent light spectrum with the wavelengths of the main peaks, in order to make the diagram most useful for spectrometer calibration purposes. I am indebted to Wikipedia for the source information on which this graph is based.


The above is useful for calibrating my CCDSPEC and Science Surplus DIY Spectrometers and other similar spectrometers.

The process involves me taking a spectrum and then identifying the lines on it and calibrating the spectrometer using the process in the relevant software package. This is a spectrum from the Science Surplus DIY Spectrometer of a Compact Fluorescent Light:

The compact fluorescent spectrum can be used to help identify lines on other calibration lights, such as one made from a RELCO neon fluorescent bulb starter:

Further enhancement of calibration can be achieved using alternative calibration standards such as the solar spectrum – here I have annotated that spectrum with the Fraunhofer elemental lines:

Another alternative to calibration standard lights is to use an LED light – this one provides lines in red, green and blue, and is from on a variable colour strip light I purchased from ebay:

Compare the above to a commercially sold white LED calibration light:


Three LED lamp calibration light

I purchased the following multi-coloured LED strip light from ebay – Ed at the last RAG meeting asked whether coloured LEDs could be used as a calibration light for spectrometry – it seemed like a good idea! This one comes with a neat little remote control to allow it to be placed some distance away (ideal for focusing a telescope on it and then turning on and off and changing colours).


I made a calibration light out of the strip light above and a piece of Perspex made to diffuse light (off ebay designed for light boxes). I could then take spectra using my CCDSPEC spectrometer:

The first three spectra show that red, green, and blue are all very pure colours from the relevant LEDs in the strip:

Spectrum of LED strip light – green LED (below):

Spectrum of LED strip light – red LED (below):

Spectrum of LED strip light – blue LED (below):

Producing multiple lines on a single spectrum:

The above graphs demonstrate that the LEDs individually produce pure colours. However, for calibration purposes, it is useful to be able to have multiple lines on a single spectrum. This is where this particular colour-changing LED strip is useful – the strip uses three different coloured LEDs as above but allows you to select various combinations of LEDs to produce variety of “colours” – each of this is a mixture of LEDs switched on together in varying amounts.

The following are three examples of combinations – there are a total of 16 colours available (16 combinations):

Spectra from the three examples of colour combinations:

X-projections from spectra from the three examples of colour combinations:

White colour on the LED strip:

Probably the most useful combination is when all three LEDs are turned on together “white” – donated by a convenient “W” button. The spectrum from this produces three convenient peaks for calibration (below):


Comparing spectra from compact fluorescent lights in lounge, portable 230V desk lamp and portable 12V calibration light

In previous posts, I have discussed the various calibration lights I have tried for my spectrometers. Each time I come back ultimately to fluorescent lights – these have typical spectra and easy to identify peaks and are ideal for relatively low resolution spectrometers such as my CCDSPEC and Science Surplus DIY Spectrometers.

They are available as long bulbs or more compact portable bulbs called Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL). The spectra are similar.

Initially I used a compact fluorescent light in my study/lounge but then realised I could do with a portable arrangement to take outside into the field. I obtained a simple desk lamp and used 230V CFL bulbs powered using an inverter on my leisure battery. This is not the safest method – 230V can cause harm – but then I found a caravan online shop selling off its last 12V CFL bulbs. I did not realise these were sold in 12V varieties so I have obtained a number of these and built myself a lamp holder than plugs into a 12V cigar-type lighter plug socket so it can be powered from any standard 12V telescope power supply.

In today’s post, I am comparing the spectra on the three sources of CFL bulbs – the ceiling lights in my lounge, 240V desk lamp and homemade 12V mobile calibration system. The question I need to answer is whether all three produce similar spectra – in which case the 12V homemade setup will be my preferred calibration light as it is mobile and safe.

I used my CCDSPEC spectrometer for today’s tests.


Taking spectrum from 240V desk lamp CFL arrangement (below):


Taking spectrum from 12V desk lamp CFL arrangement (below):


Comparing the three spectra:

Spectrum from 240V CFL ceiling light (below):

Spectrum from 240V CFL desk lamp (below):

Spectrum from 12V CFL homemade lamp (below – here I have altered the exposure to give longer and shorter exposures to show that this made minimal difference to the spectrum as long as it did not reach maximum (16000 on intensity at which point peaks broadened and became less useful for calibration as exact wavelengths difficult to read from graph)):


To assist in comparison between the three spectra, I have repeated them below but this time one after the other:

It is amazing how similar these bulbs are – from different manufacturers but still providing same peaks with slight differences only in intensity. It shows that the similar chemical makeup of their constituent gases and that the emission spectra of those gases do not vary.

My conclusion – any of these bulbs can be used for calibration of my spectroscopes and hence I can happily use the 12V outside in the field.