Project Spectra!

The goal of “Project Spectra!” is to advance knowledge of Solar System exploration by providing students with actual spectroscopic data in an accessible format. (Courtesy LASP)

Current Update

“Project Spectra!” is a NASA Approved Product and has been developed with NASA funding. We have used the materials located on this page to offer teacher professional development workshops, however we do not have any workshops scheduled at this time; please contact us at for more information.


“Project Spectra!” is a science and engineering program for 6th – 12th grade students, focusing on how light is used to explore the Solar System. “Project Spectra!” emphasizes hands-on activities, like building a spectrograph, as well as the use of real data to solve scientific questions.

Here, you will find lessons for middle school students that can also be easily adapted for high school students or modified for elementary school students. Each lesson has a front page listing national standards in science and mathematics, prior knowledge students need for the lesson, materials, and time to complete the lesson. We have also provided tables listing national standards the lessons conform to, and a scope and sequence. We have included fun and informational links to explore the nature of light and spectroscopy further.

What is a Data Story?

A data story is an inquiry driven, standards-based lesson using real data from actual spacecraft! Each data story is a cogent, well-bounded story of solar system exploration that is accessible to students.


Lesson name Lesson printouts Other materials
Patterns and Fingerprints  
Graphing the Rainbow  
Using Spectral Data to Explore Saturn & Titan* Interactive lesson:

Goldilocks and the Three Planets* Interactive lesson:

Building a Fancy Spectrograph**  
Using a Fancy Spectrograph**  
A Spectral Mystery  
Designing an Open Spectrograph**  
Designing a Spectroscopy Mission**  
Marvelous Martian Mineralogy* Interactive lesson:

Worksheet for interactive

Star Light, Star Bright? Finding Remote Atmospheres Animations

Interactive lesson:

Solving a Mixed Up Problem  
Enceladus, I Barely Knew You

Interactive lesson:

Planet Designer: What’s Trending Hot? Interactive lesson:

Planet Designer: Kelvin Climb Interactive lesson:

Planet Designer: Martian Makeover Interactive lesson:

“The MAVEN Mission” article

Planet Designer: Retro Planet Red

Interactive lesson:

(* Denotes data story lesson; ** Denotes engineering lesson, Note: A “spectrograph,” is a tool used in spacecraft and modern telescopes that uses a detector to record properties of light. Technically, the students build “spectroscopes” where the human eye directly observes light. We consider the student to be the detector when they build their “space-worthy” spectrographs, but leave further explanation at the discretion of the instructor.)

Other Materials

  • Light – A presentation for high school students (434 KB PDF)

Interactive Lessons

This interactive accompanies the Enceladus, I Barely Knew You lesson. This interactive accompanies the Marvelous Martian Mineralogy lesson.
Explore the sun with the Features of the Sun interactive. This interactive accompanies the Goldilocks and the Three Planets lesson.
This interactive accompanies the Explore Saturn and Titan with Spectral Data lesson. Explore planetary surface temperature with the Planet Designer Kelvin Climb interactive (for high schoolers).
Explore planetary surface temperature with the Planet Designer: What’s Trending Hot? interactive (for middle schoolers). Can you modify Mars to support liquid water? Find out with the Planet Designer: Retro Planet Red interactive (for high schoolers).
Can you modify Mars to support liquid water? Find out with the Planet Designer: Martian Makeover interactive (for middle schoolers).  


Teacher Workshop Materials

Presentations from past years’ teacher’s workshops.

Fun and Educational Links