The requirements for spectroscopy vary according to what you would like to achieve.
At the lowest end a transmission grating such as the StarAnalyser used as an eyepiece filter can be applied for visual observation to show absorption lines and the continiuum of bright stars. This is good for public outreach. Everything else beyond this requires some form of camera and software to analyse the spectrum.
The same transmission grating applied to the front of a DSLR lens opens a new dimension allowing the application of some analysis of stellar spectra with the software mentioned below.
The transmission grating coupled to a mono astronomical CCD camera on a telescope allows for analysis of fainter stars and is a very capable tool for identifying supernova, nova and other transients.
At the other end of the scale are amateur spectrographs based on the Littrow and Echelle designs that are able to record very high resolution spectra well suited to collaboration with professional astronomers.

To assist those with a sense of adventure and wanting to learn how to analyse spectra but not wanting to spend money on a whim there are low resolution spectra you can download from this site to get you started. These files are in FITS format.


These are just a few of the “must have” books to help you understand the basics of spectroscopy.

Spectroscopic Atlas 4.0 – PDF free download. – Richard Walker
Astronomical Spectroscopy for Amateurs – Ken Harrison
Practical Amateur Spectroscopy – Stephen F. Tonkin
Astronomical Spectrography for Amateurs – J. -P. Rozelot & C. Neiner

The list above is certainly not exhautive and there are many other excellent books that will enhance your understanding of this fascinating aspect of amateur astronomy. The internet also has a vast amount of information on the subject at every level.

It’s worth taking a look at the list of books laid out in this Cloudy Nights Article. Also read the Comments section.


Software for spectroscopic analysis comes in several flavours. All do a very good job of spectral analysis but some are easier to work than others. Visual Spec and ISIS are the most used by “serious” amateurs with BASS gaining in popularity. IRAF is another excellent package for advanced users. RSpec is very well constructed, very popular and is a pleasure to use. Unfortunately there is no users manual for RSpec but 200 odd MB of video tutorials will explain all. IRIS is used to pre-process spectra for ISIS and Visual Spec and is in itself a remarkable piece of astronomical image processing software.

A list of some software
Basic Astronomical Spectroscopy Software: BASS – https://uk.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/astrobodger/info
(Read the Group Description on how to download BASS)
IRAF – http://iraf.noao.edu/
ISIS – http://www.astrosurf.com/buil/isis/isis_en.htm
IRIS – http://www.astrosurf.com/buil/us/iris/iris.htm
RSpec – http://www.rspec-astro.com/
SpcAudace – http://bmauclaire.free.fr/spcaudace/
Spectroscopy Analysis Software – http://www.thewhightstuff.co.uk/?page_id=128
SPLAT – http://star-www.dur.ac.uk/~pdraper/splat/splat.html
Visual Spec – http://www.astrosurf.com/vdesnoux/


Astronomical Spectroscopy for Amateurs

Basic Astronomical Spectroscopy Software

RSpec – Real Time Spectroscopy


Projects for Spectroscopy

Astronomical Ring for Access to Spectroscopy (ARAS)
Information on Be Stars observed and suggested targets / projects

The Convento Group for Stellar Physics.
The ProAm Observers Network for Spectroscopy and Photometry

The Convento Group Discussion Forum.
Here will be information and lists of new stars to observe.

A Good List of Links


Some Names of Note

Christian Buil, Valerie Desnoux, Robin Leadbeater, Ken Harrison, Tom Fields, John Paraskeva, Francois Teyssier, Olivier Thizy, Steve Shore

Fits Spectra Files

Download these files from Dropbox. The star name is followed by the spectral type. For beginners make sure the spectra include the ‘zero order” star and work mostly with the A type star to help you find your feet. As you become more comfortable with your chosen software package you can start to work on the other spectra that do not have a zero order star. The spectrum for HD2053047  the  M1 iii star is quite a challenge for the beginner so leave it till you really know what you are doing.







Professional Low Resolution Spectroscopy

Professional astronomers in the Ukraine have realised the potential of very low resolution spectrographs when studying short period fluctuations in the chromospheres of stars. The Star Analyser 200 was used for these studies.

To download full published paper in PDF format  go to


Authors  Pokhvala, S. M.; Zhilyaev, B. E.; Reshetnyk, V. M.; Shavlovskij, V. I.


We carried out high-speed low-resolution spectroscopy of two stars, 61 Cyg A and B with small telescopes. They are known as chromospherically active stars of the K5V (A) and K7V (B) spectral types. These two stars are supposed to have high-powered chromospheres. Spectroscopic monitoring of both stars showed variations of intensity in the Balmer lines and the Mg b triplets at time intervals ranging from seconds to several minutes. From the spectrum data one can find that relative variations in the H_{α}, H_{β} lines and the Mg b triplets are about 1% and the relative power of chromospheric activity about 2\cdot 10^{-4}.