Diagram of the electromagnetic spectrum
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Windows to the Universe
The Electromagnetic Spectrum: All Sorts of Light!
There are many different types of energy that come from the Sun. All of the types of energy are part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The spectrum usually is divided into these seven parts:
These waves are used to bring you the tunes from your favorite radio station, but they are also a type of radiation from the Sun.
Microwaves can be used to study the Universe, communicate with satellites, and cook popcorn.
Instruments on satellites that detect plants, rock types, and characteristics of the atmosphere use infrared radiation.
This is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that humans are able to see. It includes all of the colors of the rainbow which, when combined, make white light.
Ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the Sun is blocked by Earth's atmosphere, but some makes it through. UV radiation helps plants grow and humans make vitamin D in their bodies. However, too much UV can cause sunburns, skin cancer, cataracts, and can damage plants too.
X-rays travel through skin, tissue and organs but bounce off hard bone. That's how doctors use them to take photographs of bones.
Gamma rays have the highest energy of all types of radiation!
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The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist
, available in our online store
, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.
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