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Detecting Electromagnetic Waves From Space

Detecting Electromagnetic Waves from Space

A final note on star gazing. The entire electromagnetic spectrum is used by researchers for investigating stars, space, and time. As noted earlier, Penzias and Wilson detected microwaves to identify the background radiation originating from the Big Bang. Radio telescopes such as the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico and Parkes Observatory in Australia were designed to detect radio waves.

Infrared telescopes need to have their detectors cooled by liquid nitrogen to be able to gather useful signals. Since infrared radiation is predominantly from thermal agitation, if the detectors were not cooled, the vibrations of the molecules in the antenna would be stronger than the signal being collected.

The most famous of these infrared sensitive telescopes is the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. The earliest telescopes, developed in the seventeenth century, were optical telescopes, collecting visible light. Telescopes in the ultraviolet, X-ray, and \(\gamma \)-ray regions are placed outside the atmosphere on satellites orbiting the Earth.

The Hubble Space Telescope (launched in 1990) gathers ultraviolet radiation as well as visible light. In the X-ray region, there is the Chandra X-ray Observatory (launched in 1999), and in the \(\gamma \)-ray region, there is the new Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (launched in 2008—taking the place of the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, 1991–2000.).

PhET Explorations: Color Vision

Make a whole rainbow by mixing red, green, and blue light. Change the wavelength of a monochromatic beam or filter white light. View the light as a solid beam, or see the individual photons.

Color Vision

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