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Home-made calibration lamp?

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nkrumm's picture
Home-made calibration lamp?

I have read that one can make a wavelength calibration source from a flourescent lamp starter, but I don't know how to do it. I tried connecting one directly to 120V AC house current--it glowed momentarily and then popped (burned out). Does anyone have plans for building such a thing?

Robin Leadbeater
Richard Walker's RELCO starter lamp

You need to include a series resistor to limit the current.  It was the Swiss amateur Richard Walker (The author of the "Spectral Atlas for Amateur Astronomers" ) who discovered some of these starters could be used as calibration lamps. He  has a writeup on it here.

(Note different starters have different gasses. The ones used in Shelyak's instruments are RELCO 480. which contain mainly Ne and Ar. They use a special constant current power supply derived from 12v which prolongs the life compared with a simple mains connection.



JBD's picture
Too bad...

The product does not seem available anymore.
I am looking for a calibration lamp that is larger than neon alone.
Best regards,

File upload: 
Robin Leadbeater
RELCO 480 availablity

They are still avaialble here in europe eg

though US suppliers probably don't stock them as they are 240v rated. Not sure if there are any 120v equivalents. You can also buy them as spares for their spectrographs from Shelyak instruments



Jerry Foote
Calibration lamp

Hi Nathan,

I am part of a group that has been 3D printiong a spectrograph and have had some luck with DIY cal lamps. If you would contact me privately I will send along what we have found.


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