Project Spectra!

Project Spectra!

“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.

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.



Lesson name Lesson printouts Other materials
Patterns and Fingerprints  
Graphing the Rainbow  
Using Spectral Data to Explore Saturn & Titan*
Goldilocks and the Three Planets*
Building a Fancy Spectrograph**  
Using a Fancy Spectrograph**  
A Spectral Mystery  
Designing an Open Spectrograph**  
Designing a Spectroscopy Mission**  
Marvelous Martian Mineralogy*
Star Light, Star Bright? Finding Remote Atmospheres
Solving a Mixed Up Problem  
Enceladus, I Barely Knew You
Planet Designer: What’s Trending Hot?
Planet Designer: Kelvin Climb
Planet Designer: Martian Makeover
Planet Designer: Retro Planet Red

(* 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

Many of the lessons above have an accompanying interactive version of the lesson, available through the Project SPECTRA! app, which can be downloaded for PCs, Macs, iPads, and Android tablets. Some Chromebooks can run the Android app.

Download for Windows
Download for Mac
Download iOS app

The downloadable versions of this interactive lesson are keyboard accessible.

For visually impaired users: screen reader functionality is available for the web version of this interactive lesson when using Internet Explorer and Window-Eyes (screen-reading software).

Teacher Workshop Materials

Presentations from past years’ teacher’s workshops.

Fun and Educational Links