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Question Video: Comparing the Wavelength of Gamma Rays and X-Rays Physics

Which type of electromagnetic radiation has a shorter wavelength: gamma rays or X-rays?


Video Transcript

Which type of electromagnetic radiation has a shorter wavelength, gamma rays or X-rays?

Okay, so to answer this question, we need to recall something known as the electromagnetic spectrum. Now, the electromagnetic spectrum, or EM spectrum for short, consists of the entire range of wavelengths the electromagnetic waves can have. And these wavelengths can be as long or as short as we can imagine. And scientists have classified these electromagnetic waves into different sections.

So, for example, the longest wavelength electromagnetic waves are known as radio waves. Then, slightly shorter wavelength waves are known as microwave. And then, going from left to right as the wavelength decreases, we have infrared rays, visible light, ultraviolet light, X-rays, and then finally, gamma rays. And that is the really important point. That as we go from left to right on this diagram, the wavelength is decreasing.

Now, in the question, we’ve been asked to compare the wavelength of gamma rays and X-rays, where, of course, the wavelength of a particular wave is the distance between one peak and the next adjacent peak or equally one trough and the next adjacent trough. And so, we can see on our diagram that X-rays in the electromagnetic spectrum are roughly here and gamma rays are here.

The exact wavelength ranges don’t matter because all we’re interested in is knowing which has a shorter wavelength. But as we said already, as we move towards the right on this diagram, the wavelength decreases. And therefore, all gamma rays will have shorter wavelengths than all X-rays, regardless of what those exact wavelengths are. Which means that the answer to our question is that gamma rays have a shorter wavelength than X-rays.

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