Light and the Electromagnetic Spectrum

Contributed by:
Jonathan James
The highlights are:
1. Light phenomenon
2. Electromagnetic spectrum
3. Frequency ranges
4. Atoms and light
1. Light
and the
2. Light Phenomenon
• Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
believed light consisted of
• By 1900 most scientists believed
that light behaved as a wave.
3. The Electromagnetic Spectrum
The electromagnetic spectrum represents
the range of energy from low energy, low
frequency radio waves with long
wavelengths up to high energy, high
frequency gamma waves with small
4. Visible light is a small portion of this
spectrum. This is the only part of this
energy range that our eyes can
detect. What we see is a rainbow of
5. Frequency Ranges
• Wavelengths
• 104 101 1 10-2 10-5 10-6 10-8 10-10 10-12
• Frequencies (cycles per sec)
3 x 106 3 x 1010 3 x 1014 3 x 1016 3 x1018 3 x10 22
6. Frequency Ranges of Visible Light
Red light has a frequency of roughly
4.3 × 1014 Hz, and a wavelength of about
7.0 × 10­7 m (700nm).
Violet light, at the other end of the visible
range, has nearly double the frequency
—7.5 × 1014 Hz—and (since the speed of
light is the same in either case) just over
half the wavelength—
4.0 × 10­7 m (400nm).
7. The radiation to which our eyes are
most sensitive has a wavelength near
the middle of this range, at about
5.5 x 10-7m (550 nm), in the yellow-
green region of the spectrum.
8. It is no coincidence that this wavelength
falls within the range of wavelengths at
which the Sun emits most of its
electromagnetic energy—our eyes have
evolved to take greatest advantage of
the available light.
9. C = λν
• The frequency (v) of a wave is
the number of waves to cross a
point in 1 second (units are Hertz –
cycles/sec or sec-1)
• λ is the wavelength- the distance
from crest to crest on a wave
10. • The product of wavelength and
frequency always equals the
speed of light.
C = λν
• Why does this make sense?
c is a constant value= 3.00 x 108 m/s
• Calculate the wavelength of yellow light
emitted from a sodium lamp if the
frequency is
5.10 x 1014 Hz (5.10 x 1014 s-1)
List the known info List the unknown
c = 3.00 x 1010 cm/s wavelength (λ) = ? cm
Frequency (v) = 5.10 x 1014 s-1
C = λv λ=c
λ = 3.00 x 1010 cm/s = 5.88 x 10-5 cm
5.10 x 1014 s-1
1- What is the wavelength of radiation
with a frequency of 1.50 x 1013 s-1?
2- Whatfrequency is radiation with a
wavelength of 5.00 x 10-6 cm? In what
region of the electromagnetic
spectrum is this radiation?
13. • The colors we see in objects are the
colors that are reflected, all other colors
are absorbed. A red t-shirt appears red
because red is reflected to our eyes and
the other colors are absorbed.
• When all colors are being reflected we see
white light (white isn’t really a color)
14. • When all wavelengths of light are being
absorbed we see black (black also, isn’t
really a color)
• A false-color image is made when the
satellite records data about brightness
of the light waves reflecting off the
Earth's surface.
15. • These brightnesses are represented by
numerical values - and these values can
then be color-coded. It is just like painting
by number.
• The next slide shows a true color vs. false
color image of the planet Uranus. Satellite
images can be gathered in true color
(what our eyes would see) and false color
(to make it look better)
16. • The true color image on left is how our
eyes would see it.
• The false color image is enhanced to
bring out subtle details to make it
easier to study Uranus’ cloud
17. Atoms and Light
• The movement of electrons inside of
atoms produces light and other
electromagnetic radiation.
• Sunlight produces every color in the
rainbow but…
• Each element gives off only certain
frequencies of light, called spectral lines.
In effect each element has its own
signature of spectral lines allowing us to
identify which element we have or what
stars are made of.
18. Below is a picture of the spectral lines
given off by hydrogen. Note there are 3
different frequencies.
19. • The emission spectra makes it
possible to identify inaccessible
substances. Most of our knowledge of
the universe comes from studying the
emission spectra of stars.
• Below is the spectra of a few more
20. • Neon
• Argon
21. • In a star, there are many elements
present. The way we can tell which are
there is to look at the spectrum of the
• From spectral lines astronomers can
determine not only the element, but the
temperature and density of that element
in the star
• Emission lines can also tell us about the
magnetic field of the star. The width of
the line can tell us how fast the material
is moving
22. • If the lines shift back and forth, it
means that the star may be orbiting
another star - the spectrum will give
the information to estimate the mass
and size of the star system and the
companion star.
23. • Around a compact object (black hole,
neutron star), the material is heated to the
point it gives off X-rays, and the material
falls onto the black hole or neutron star. By
looking at the spectrum of X-rays being
emitted by that object and its surrounding
disk, we can learn about these objects.
24. • Albert Einstein returned to the idea that
light existed as particles. He proposed that
light could be described as quanta of
energy that behave as if they were
particles. Light quanta are called
• While it was difficult for scientists to
believe (they can be stubborn) it did
explain the photoelectric effect
(previously a mystery)
25. The photoelectric effect – When light shines
on metals, electrons (photoelectrons) are
ejected from their surface.
• A certain frequency has to be achieved or the effect
does not work
Red light will not cause
electrons to eject!
26. • The photoelectric effect has practical
applications in photoelectrical cells used
for solar powered cars, and solar powered