Insight Into: The Electromagnetic Spectrum

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What different types of radiation make up the electromagnetic spectrum?

Light and Distance
Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach
All images, illustrations, and videos courtesy of NASA except:
·       Illustration of radiation from everyday objects courtesy of STScI
·       Illustration of electromagnetic waves courtesy of STScI
·       Photo of crepuscular rays courtesy of Wikimedia user Fir0002/Flagstaffotos
·       Photo of snake courtesy of Mark Mannetti
·       Infrared image of a mouse courtesy of Julius Lab, UCSF
·       Photo of snow geese and the Moon courtesy of Brocken Inaglory
·       James Webb Space Telescope illustrations by STScI/G. Bacon
·       Ariane 5 rocket launch image ©2008 ESA – CNES – Arianespace/Photo by Optique Video CSG
·       James Webb Space Telescope animation by STScI/G. Bacon
·       Animation of traveling light pulses courtesy of Footage Island
·       Alpha Centauri animation courtesy of ESO/L. Calçada/Nick Risinger (
·       Andromeda Galaxy image courtesy of ESA/Hubble & Digitized Sky Survey 2; acknowledgment: Davide De Martin (ESA/Hubble)
·       Illustration of galaxies at different distances by STScI/A. Field
·       Cosmic redshift animation courtesy of ESO
·       Simulated JWST galaxy field image courtesy of STScI
·       Taurus constellation drawing from Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius, courtesy of the United States Naval Observatory
Written by Tracy Vogel
Designed by Marc Lussier 
Music courtesy of Associated Production Music


Animation of the Sun, a woman holding a cell phone, a dog, a fountain, camp fire, picnic

Objects emit all kinds of radiation

The electromagnetic spectrum: The different types of radiation make up the electromagnetic spectrum. Gamma ray, X-ray, ultraviolet, visible, infrared, microwave, radio

When we look at the world around us, we see the only type of radiation human eyes evolved to detect: visible light.

Sun shines through the clouds over a lush, green landscape

Other animals are different.

Certain types of snakes and beetles, for instance, can see infrared light.

A snake seeing meerkats using infrared

Birds can see into the ultraviolet range.

birds fly

Scientist in front of telescope mirrors

Humans must use technology to see other forms of radiation

insets showing galaxies as seen in infrared and ultraviolet light

A colorful spiral galaxy

The Webb Space Telescope will let us see infrared radiation as clearly as the Hubble Space Telescope sees visible light.

Webb Telescope on the left, Hubble on the right. The Webb photo is brightly colored blue, pink, white; the hues in Hubble's photo are muted, beige, white, brown