Visible Spectra of the Elements

UPDATE: I'm now in the process of obtaining samples of elements and photographing their spectra. You can find photos of several spectra in the Interactive Format version linked below. (Some of the photos regrettably show difficult-to-avoid sodium contamination.) While I'm at it, I'm going through my data adjusting the intensities of the lines to match the photos. The old legacy image turns out to have some inaccuracies in it, including the spectrum of holmium from which a large swath of rather bright green lines were utterly completely missing. (And from the source I trust most, at that!) You can still find the legacy image here if you so desire.

Why care about spectra?

If the emission lines of the chemical elements were observed through a diffraction grating, they would look something like this:

Emission spectra of the elements


High Resolution Version

Periodic table format

(not yet updated)

Interactive Format

Screensaver

Runs entirely in browser - no download, no risk.


Due to frequent updates to the data, you may notice variances in the table above vs. the high res version v. the interactive version. When in doubt, the interactive version is always the most up to date.

This image is based on spectrum line positions and intensities from MIT Wavelength Tables and the NIST Atomic Spectrum Database. A few spectra (neon, for instance) have had corrections applied in order to more closely match my own personal observations.

Astatine is missing from this image as no visible lines of this element are known. Some lines of francium have been extrapolated from known energy levels.

Disclaimer: I personally have not had opportunity to observe all elements, especially those which are expensive, hard to find, or radioactive. Therefore, some spectra may deviate considerably from the depictions pictured here. Elements which I have observed in a pure or semi pure state include: H, He, C, N, Ne, Na, Mg, Al, Ar, Sc, Ti, Fe, Ni, Cu, Zn, Ga, Y, Ag, Cd, Sn, Xe, Nd, Gd, Dy, Ho, Er, Tm, Yb, Pt, Hg, Pb. I can vouch for all of these appearing almost exactly as depicted. Elements I have seen in mixtures with other elements include Kr and Mo. I am reasonably sure that these appear more or less as depicted.

The element spectrum images on this page, including the linked high resolution version and the periodic table format image, are Public Domain or CC0.