Real-life lightsabers? From the corner of our storage today, we pulled out a unique piece of technology that had been forgotten for a while. Four life-size lightsaber sized and shaped tubes of gas which emitted a light with the passing of electricity. Set up in a dark, somewhat hidden area of the museum, we familiarized ourselves with the neon, xenon, and hydrogen gas within the tubes and discussed the ways that we could possibly enthrall young kids who would not comprehend the concept of excited electrons. While most of the younger audience found themselves satisfied with holding the large, slightly heavy lightsaber and enjoying the fluorescent blue and orange from the gasses, the parents inquired about the purpose of differing colors and uses in the real world.
At one point, I recalled a similar lab I had done in my chemistry course, where we observed the light spectrum of the photons emitted by various gasses. I wondered if we could have access to spectroscopes for the visitors to enjoy. We discovered a pack of simple spectroscopes that separated the lights well and set them out. This transformed the tone of our demonstration, as it brought in the younger audience as well, more fascinated by the broken rainbows they witnessed through the lens of the spectroscopes. Although the radiant light of the hydrogen often overshadowed the rainbows of the noble gasses, its bold separation provided room for explanation and further questions. With the spectroscopes, the focus of our explanations shifted from the gas’ properties to the streaks of colors and spectroscopy.