Light waves throughout the electromagnetic spectrum law in similar ways. When a light wave encounters an object, they space either transmitted, reflected, absorbed, refracted, polarized, diffracted, or scattered depending upon the composition of the object and the wavelength of the light.

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Specialized tools onboard spacecraft and airplanes collect data on how electromagnetic tide behave when they communicate with matter. This data can reveal the physical and also chemical ingredient of matter.



Reflection is when occurrence light (incoming light) hits things and bounces off. An extremely smooth surfaces such as mirrors reflect almost all event light.

The color of things is in reality the wavelength of the light reflected if all various other wavelengths are absorbed. Color, in this case, refers to the different wavelengths of irradiate in the visible irradiate spectrum regarded by our eyes. The physical and chemical composition of matter determines i m sorry wavelength (or color) is reflected.

This reflective behavior of irradiate is provided by lasers onboard"s Lunar reconnaissance Orbiter to map the surface ar of the Moon. The instrument actions the time the takes a laser pulse to hit the surface and return. The longer the solution time, the farther away the surface and also lower the elevation. A shorter response time means the surface is closer or higher in elevation. In this picture of the Moon"s southerly hemisphere, low elevations are displayed as purple and blue, and high elevations are presented in red and brown.



Absorption occurs as soon as photons from event light hit atoms and molecules and cause them come vibrate. The an ext an object"s molecules move and also vibrate, the hotter it becomes. This heat is then emitted from the object together thermal energy.

Some objects, such as darker fancy objects, absorb more incident light energy than others. For example, black pavement absorbs most visible and UV energy and reflects an extremely little, while a light-colored concrete sidewalk reflects more energy than it absorbs. Thus, the black pavement is hotter than the sidewalk ~ above a warm summer day. Photons bounce approximately during this absorption procedure and lose bits of energy to countless molecules along the way. This thermal energy then radiates in the form of longer wavelength infrared energy.

Thermal radiation native the energy-absorbing asphalt and also roofs in a city have the right to raise its surface temperature by as much as 10° Celsius. The Landsat 7 satellite image listed below shows the city that Atlanta together an island that heat contrasted to the surrounding area. Sometimes this warming that air over cities deserve to influence weather, i m sorry is dubbed the "urban warm island" effect.



Diffraction is the bending and spreading of waves around an obstacle. It is many pronounced as soon as a light tide strikes things with a size equivalent to its very own wavelength. An instrument referred to as a spectrometer supplies diffraction to different light into a variety of wavelengths—a spectrum. In the case of visible light, the separation that wavelengths with diffraction outcomes in a rainbow.

A spectrometer uses diffraction (and the subsequent interference) of irradiate from slits or gratings to separate wavelengths. Faint peaks of energy at certain wavelengths have the right to then be detected and also recorded. A graph of these data is dubbed a spectral signature. Trends in a spectral signature assist scientists recognize the physics condition and composition of stellar and interstellar matter.

The graph below from the SPIRE infrared spectrometer onboard the ESA (European room Agency) Herschel room telescope reveals strong emission lines indigenous carbon monoxide (CO), atom carbon, and ionized nitrogen in Galaxy M82.

Scattering occurs when light bounces off an item in a selection of directions. The amount of scattering the takes location depends ~ above the wavelength of the light and the size and structure that the object.

The sky appears blue because of this scattering behavior. Light at much shorter wavelengths—blue and also violet—is scattered by nitrogen and also oxygen together it passes v the atmosphere. Much longer wavelengths of light—red and yellow—transmit v the atmosphere. This scattering of irradiate at much shorter wavelengths illuminates the skies v light from the blue and also violet end of the clearly shows spectrum. Even though violet is scattered more than blue, the skies looks blue come us since our eye are much more sensitive to blue light.

Aerosols in the atmosphere can additionally scatter light."s Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite observation (CALIPSO) satellite deserve to observe the scattering that laser pulses come "see" the distributions of aerosols from sources such as dust storms and also forest fires. The image below shows a volcano ash cloud drifting over Europe indigenous an eruption that Iceland"s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano in 2010.

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Refraction is as soon as light waves change direction as they pass from one medium to another. Light travels slow in air 보다 in a vacuum, and also even slow in water. Together light travels right into a various medium, the change in speed bends the light. Different wavelengths of light space slowed at various rates, which causes them to bend at different angles. 

For example, when the full spectrum the visible light travels v the glass the a prism, the wavelengths room separated right into the colors of the rainbow.

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CitationAPAMLA Mission Directorate. "Wave Behaviors" 2010. Nationwide Aeronautics and room Administration.