"Stars" come in two major categories: astrophysical objects like our sun, and fusion plasma experiments such LLNL's Spheromak and the proposed International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). Spectroscopy, the measurement and interpretation of the emission and absorption of radiant electromagnetic energy, is critical for understanding the physical behavior of both types of "stars." You will learn how scientists use spectroscopic measurements of light to study the stars, conduct cutting-edge fusion energy research, and how to construct your own spectroscope.

Today you will learn

  • What is plasma?
  • How do we study plasmas using electromagnetic waves (light)?
  • Why is plasma spectroscopy important for astrophysics and fusion research?
  • Why should you care about fusion plasmas?


Students will learn how scientists use plasma spectroscopy to understand astrophysical objects and fusion experiments, including measurement on LLNL's fusion experiment.

Student Lecture Notes

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Speaker Bios

Dr.Donald Correll

Director, Institute for Laser Science and Applications
Chief of Staff, Physical Sciences Directorate
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory-University of California

Dr. Donald Correll earned his BS in physics with honors from California State University at Long Beach in 1969 and his Ph.D. in plasma physics from the University of California at Irvine in 1976. While at UC Irvine, he was both a UC Regents/Chancellor Fellow and a Hughes Foundation Doctoral Fellow.

Dr. Correll began his research career with the Magnetic Fusion Program at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). From 1976 through 1987, he was an experimental physicist. In 1988, he changed emphasis from science research to science management when he joined the Laser Fusion Program at Livermore Lab. From 1998 through 2003, Dr. Correll was the Director of the LLNL's Education Program.

In 2003, Dr. Correll became the Director for LLNL's Institute for Laser Science and Applications (ILSA). In 2006, he was appointed Chief of Staff (acting) for LLNL's Physics and Advanced Technologies (PAT Directorate. Prior to the Chief of Staff assignment, he was the Principal Deputy Program Leader for LLNL's Fusion Energy Program for three years. Dr. Correll is currently both the ILSA Director and the Physical Sciences Directorate Chief of Staff.

In addition to his science research, management, and education positions, Dr. Correll has also been a lecturer at the Department of Applied Science, UC Davis/Livermore. He is a member of the Department of Physics and Astronomy Advisory Council, California State University, Long Beach and advisor to the Edward Teller Education Center.

Dr. Correll has been either a principal author or a multiple author on over 30 refereed research journal publications. He has also authored plasma physics and fusion education material. He has articles in the Macmillan Physics Encyclopedia, 1996; the Grolier Book of Knowledge, 1999; and the CRC Press Dictionary of Material Science and High Energy Physics, 2001.

Dr. Correll was one of the three first recipients of the Special Award for Education and Outreach from Fusion Power Associates. He is the past chair of the Education and Outreach Committee of the APS-Division of Plasma Physics and is a past member of the APS Committee on Education.

Dr. Correll is a member of the AAAS, AAPT, APS, OSA, Sigma Pi Sigma, and the Sigma Xi Research Society. He has testified before Congress several times as a spokesman and expert on fusion energy. He has also been a panel member for national fusion studies held by the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and for national laboratory studies held by the General Accounting Office.

His accomplishments in science research and education have resulted in Dr. Correll being elected to Fellowship in the American Physical Society in 1993 and included in the 1994 U.S. and world editions of "Who's Who in Science and Engineering."

Dan Burns

Earth and Space Science and AP Physics Teacher
Los Gatos High School

Dan Burns has been teaching Earth and Space Science and AP Physics at Los Gatos High School since 1992. He is the LGHS science department chair and past president of the Northern California/Nevada American Association of Physics Teachers. He has worked on curriculum development and teacher workshops for the SETI Institute, the USGS, NASA, AAPT, and San Jose State University. He has a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Illinois. Prior to becoming a teacher Dan was a senior research specialist for the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company. Dan is an avid amateur astronomer and astrophotographer and has had several pictures published in astronomy magazines.