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With Explore the Planets, investigate the planets, their moons, and understand the processes that shape them. By G. Jeffrey Taylor, Ph.D. See our DVD 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.
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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.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA