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A spectrometer or spectrograph is an instrument attached to a telescope to analyze the radiation from astronomical objects. It uses a prism or a grating to spread the light from the object into a spectrum, a rainbow of colours. This allows astronomers to detect many of the chemical elements by their characteristic fingerprints. Typically these are dark bands in specific locations in the spectrum caused by energy being absorbed as light passes through an atmosphere of gas. If the object is glowing by its own light, it will often show bright lines caused by the glowing gas itself. These lines are named for the elements which cause them, such as the Hydrogen Alpha, Beta, and Gamma lines. The spectrometer is the most powerful and widely used tool in astronomy aside from the telescope itself. Almost all of our knowledge of the chemical makeup of the universe comes from spectra.
Spectrometers are also used in industries with tight color tolerances: print, paint, plastic molding.