Couldn't find element LayerAd

Error finding content

Electromagnetic Radiation - Windows to the Universe

Shop Windows to the Universe

Dig into Montana Before History: 11K Years of Hunter-Gatherers in the Rockies and Plains by D. H. MacDonald, Ph.D. See our online store book collection.
This is an infrared (IR) view of Mt. Jian in Japan erupting in 1983. IR "light" is a form of electromagnetic radiation given off by hot materials like lava.
Click on image for full size
Daedalus Enterprises, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI

Electromagnetic Radiation

Electromagnetic radiation is the result of oscillating electric and magnetic fields. The wave of energy generated by such vibrations moves through space at the speed of light. And well it should... for visible light is indeed one form of electromagnetic (EM) radiation.

X-rays, radio waves, gamma rays, and infrared and ultraviolet "light" are the other main types of electromagnetic radiation. They are all traveling vibrations of electromagnetic waves, each with its own characteristic wavelength. Organized in order of wavelength, they make up the electromagnetic spectrum.

Sometimes it is useful to think about electromagnetic radiation as though it came in packets. These packets of EM radiation are called "photons".

There is a second main type of radiation, which is the result of subatomic particles moving at very high speeds. That type of radiation is called "particle radiation".

Last modified June 22, 2005 by Randy Russell.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, as well as books on science education!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Radio Waves

Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation. A radio wave has a much longer wavelength than does visible light. We use radio waves extensively for communications. Radio waves have wavelengths as...more

Photon

Light is very strange. Sometimes it is best to think of light as a series of waves. At other times, it is useful to think of light as a swarm of particles. When we think of light as particles, we call...more

Radiation

Radiation comes in two basic types: electromagnetic radiation transmitted by photons, and particle radiation consisting of electrons, protons, alpha particles, and so forth. Electromagnetic radiation,...more

Particle Radiation

One main type of radiation, particle radiation, is the result of subatomic particles hurtling at tremendous speeds. Protons, cosmic rays, and alpha and beta particles are some of the most common types...more

Ozone in the Stratosphere

About 90% of the ozone in the Earth's atmosphere lies in the region called the stratosphere which is found between 16 and 48 kilometers (10 and 30 miles) above the Earth's surface. Ozone forms a kind of...more

Electricity and Magnetism

Electricity and magnetism are two closely related and very important topics within the science of physics. We use electricity to power computers and to make motors go. Magnetism makes a compass point North...more

How can radiation damage a living cell?

High frequency radiation or fast moving particles plow into a living cell with enough energy to knock electrons free from molecules that make up the cell. These molecules with missing electrons are called...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF