Rainbow in the Room
The Science of Light
Light that we can see is only a part of the electromagnetic spectrum. In addition to visible radiation (light), the sun emits infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) radiation, x-rays, and gamma rays.
In this activity, students observed the following properties of light.
- Visible light is composed of many different wavelengths of radiation. Electromagnetic radiation, including light, travels in waves, similar to the waves on the surface of a lake. The distance measured between the peaks, or crests, of two successive waves is known as the wavelength. The longest wavelengths correspond to television and radio signals (1-1,000 meters), while the shortest wavelengths correspond to gamma rays (0.000,000,000,000,01 meters).
- We can see different wavelengths of light as the colors of the spectrum. Visible light consists of a mix of wavelengths that we detect as different colors. We can see these colors when white light (light as we usually see it) passes through a prism— or drops of water—and forms a rainbow. The components of visible light represent a small portion of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, and ranges from the longer wavelength of infrared radiation and the shorter wavelength of ultraviolet radiation.
Keywords: lesson | energy | light | spectrum | visible light | rainbow | rainbow colors | electromagnetic spectrum | waves | visible light | wavelengths | frequency | frequencies
- Moreno N., and B. Tharp. (2011). The Science of Global Atmospheric Change Teacher’s Guide. Third edition. Baylor College of Medicine. ISBN: 978-1-888997-76-7.
- Graphic courtesy of G.L. Vogt, EdD, Baylor College of Medicine.
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Funded by the following grant(s)
My Health My World: National Dissemination
Grant Number: 5R25ES009259
The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Number: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932
Foundations for the Future: Capitalizing on Technology to Promote Equity, Access and Quality in Elementary Science Education