The Electromagnetic Spectrum

Visible light is only one small part of all the electromagnetic radiation in space. Energy is also transmitted in the form of gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet radiation, infrared radiation, and radio waves.

Ray Spectrum List
Figure 2.4. The electromagnetic spectrum includes all electromagnetic radiation from shortest, highest-frequency gamma rays to longest, lowest-frequency radio waves.

Because we make such different uses of them, these forms of radiation seem very different from one another. Doctors use gamma rays in cancer treatment and X-rays for medical diagnosis. Ultraviolet rays give you a suntan, and infrared rays warm you up. Radio waves are used for communication.

All of these forms of radiation are really the same basic kind of energy as visible light. They have different properties because they have different wavelengths. The shortest waves have the most energy, whereas the longest waves are the least energetic. The whole family of electromagnetic waves, arranged according to wavelength, is called the electromagnetic spectrum.

Electromagnetic waves of all wavelengths are important to astronomers because each type brings unique clues about its source.

Refer to Figure 2.4. List six forms of electromagnetic radiation from the shortest waves (highest energy) to the longest waves (lowest energy)._

Answer: Gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet radiation, visible light, infrared radiation, radio waves.

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