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Without question, one of the most useful tools an astronomer or physicist can employ to study the universe is spectroscopy. However, for students in introductory physics or astronomy classes, spectroscopy is a relatively abstract concept that combines new physics topics such as thermal radiation, atomic physics, and the wave and particle nature of light and matter. In response to this conceptual hurdle, we have developed an exercise where balloons represent stars, buttons represent photons, and students produce and interpret spectra by sorting colored buttons.


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