Question Video: Classifying a Type of Electromagnetic Radiation by Wavelength Physics • 9th Grade

What is the name of the type of electromagnetic radiation that has the shortest wavelengths?

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Video Transcript

What is the name of the type of electromagnetic radiation that has the shortest wavelengths?

To begin, recall that the electromagnetic spectrum is a continuous range of radiation that we can categorize based on properties like wavelength and energy. Electromagnetic radiation can have practically any wavelength. And the shortest wavelength that scientists have observed is about 10 to the negative 20 meters, that is, less than a quintillionth of a meter. Rays with wavelengths this short are typically emitted by extreme cosmic phenomena, so they’re sort of a limiting case. But such high-energy, short-wavelength radiation falls within the range of what are known as gamma rays.

Many of the gamma rays we observe here on Earth are a product of nuclear decay when the nucleus of an atom splits apart and releases energy. Gamma rays have wavelengths around 10 to the negative 12 meters and shorter and are therefore the type of electromagnetic radiation with the shortest wavelengths.

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