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This site, closely coupled to The Natures of the Stars and The Hertzsprung- Russell (HR) Diagram, provides an introduction to the spectra of stars and allied celestial objects.

Except for the energy they carry, all portions of the spectrum -- ordinary light, infrared, radio, ultraviolet -- are fundamentally the same.Astronomers produce spectra by means of a "spectrograph" affixed to the telescope.The oldest form of the device was visual (a spectro SCOPE), and consisted of little more than a prism in a tube fixed to the end of the telescope, the refracted light focused by an observer's eyepiece.In the modern spectrograph, light is sent from the telescope onto a "collimator," a curved mirror that straightens the converging beam.The collimator sends the beam to a reflecting grating that makes a spectrum, the colored light then focused by a camera onto a detector, usually a "charge-coupled device," or "CCD," that records the spectra digitally.Refracted light is therefore "dispersed" or spread out into its spectrum, creating a rainbow -- or the spectrum of a star.

Spectra can also be created by the interference of light waves, the phenomenon that makes the brightly colored patterns seen reflected from a compact audio disc and the halos often observed next to a bright, partly clouded Moon.

Stand outdoors to see and feel the radiation pouring from the Sun.

Most of the energy of the Universe is transported in this way, by radiation.

The most familiar is "reflection," in which light is bounced from a surface, the light coming off at the same angle at which it hits, resulting in your undistorted face looking back at you from a mirror. When it passes into a substance, it slows and can be bent, a common phenomenon called "refraction." The effect is easily seen when looking at something through water.

Refraction by a curved lens focuses radiation to create an image.

The visual spectrum of light, however, is but a tiny portion of the whole picture, of a huge spectrum of radiation that extends in both directions from the edges of the rainbow.