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The study of stellar populations in galaxies is entering a new era with the availability of large and high quality databases of both observed galactic spectra and state-of-the-art evolutionary synthesis models. The power of spectral synthesis can be investigated as a mean to estimate physical properties of galaxies. Spectral synthesis is nothing more than the decomposition of an observed spectrum in terms of a superposition of a base of simple stellar populations of various ages and metallicities, producing astrophysically interesting output such as the star-formation and chemical enrichment histories of a galaxy, its extinction and velocity dispersion. This is what the STARLIGHT spectral synthesis code does.