This image shows spectral information collected from the Earth's moon.
Click on image for full size
Minerals of a planet's surface, and molecules of an atmosphere give off light of various colors. Some rocks emit more light in the blue end of the spectrum than the red, and so on. These colors are very hard to see without special cameras. The colors are different for each individual mineral or molecule. These colors are called the molecule's spectra
. So, the spectra of a mineral or molecule is like a human fingerprint, and can be used to identify it.
When studying the planets, scientists use special cameras which can collect separate colors of light. Instruments such as these help scientists determine what a planet is made from. Such an instrument is called a spectrometer.
The picture shows the information that is gained from spectra. (The colors of the picture have been falsely changed). Pink is very old ground, oranges and blues are lava flows, light blue are areas which are rich in minerals which have come from meteorites.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games
section of our online store
includes a climate change card game
and the Traveling Nitrogen game
You might also be interested in:
AU stands for Astronomical Units. It is an easy way to measure large distances in space. It is the distance between the Earth and the Sun, which is about 93 million miles. For really big distances, we...more
The solar wind is formed as the Sun's top layer blows off into space. It carries magnetic fields still attached to the Sun. Streams appear to flow into space as if they are spiraling out from the Sun,...more
For a planet to be affected by a blob of material being ejected by the sun, the planet must be in the path of the blob, as shown in this picture. The Earth and its magnetosphere are shown in the bottom...more
If someone says they saw an aurora, you might picture something like this. There is another type of aurora that we can't see. These aurora are called SAR arcs. The SAR stands for Stable Auroral Red. That...more
This figure shows the effect of the aurora on the atmosphere. When FAC's enter the atmosphere and create the aurora, they heat the atmosphere suddenly and abruptly. This creates an impulse which travels...more
This picture shows the flowing of particles into and out of the auroral zone, as Field-Aligned currents (FAC's) take at short-cut through the atmosphere. Some of the particles entering the auroral zone...more
This picture shows a series of images of the auroral oval as it expands over the an hour's time because of a storm on the Sun. This is an animation of the auroral oval expanding....more