The electromagnetic spectrum is the term used by scientists to describe the entire range of light that exists. From radio waves to gamma rays, most of the light in the universe is, in fact, invisible to us!
The electromagnetic (EM) spectrum is the range of all types of EM radiation. Radiation is energy that travels and spreads out as it goes – the visible light that comes from a lamp in your house and the radio waves that come from a radio station are two types of electromagnetic radiation. The other types of EM radiation that make up the electromagnetic spectrum are microwaves, infrared light, ultraviolet light, X-rays and gamma-rays.
You know more about the electromagnetic spectrum than you may think. The image shows where you might encounter each portion of the EM spectrum in your day-to-day life.
Radio: Your radio captures radio waves emitted by radio stations, bringing your favorite tunes. Radio waves are also emitted by stars and gases in space.
Microwave: Microwave radiation will cook your popcorn in just a few minutes, but is also used by astronomers to learn about the structure of nearby galaxies.
Infrared: Night vision goggles pick up the infrared light emitted by our skin and objects with heat. In space, infrared light helps us map the dust between stars.
Visible: Our eyes detect visible light. Fireflies, light bulbs, and stars all emit visible light.
Ultraviolet: Ultraviolet radiation is emitted by the Sun and are the reason skin tans and burns. "Hot" objects in space emit UV radiation as well.
X-ray: A dentist uses X-rays to image your teeth, and airport security uses them to see through your bag. Hot gases in the Universe also emit X-rays.
Gamma ray: Doctors use gamma-ray imaging to see inside your body. The biggest gamma-ray generator of all is the Universe.