Surf's Up Dude!

Waves in energy? Yup. Just like waves in the ocean and ripples in a pond... Energy can move in waves too. Think about when you drop a rock into a lake. You see the rings move out from that starting point. Those rings are waves from the source. Now think of the Sun as the source. Waves are coming out of the Sun. They are waves of energy.

Wave Structure

All types of light move in wave-like patterns. In each wave pattern are high points and low points. The distance between two high points, or low points, is called the wavelength. Scientists use the Greek letter lambda to describe that distance. Depending on what type of light you are talking about, each type has a different lambda, or wavelength. All of the wavelengths of light together are called the EM spectrum.

Wave Measurements

When studying the wavelengths of light, scientists measure in nanometers. That is one-billionth the length of a meter (or 0.000000001 of a meter). We already explained that different types of light have different wavelengths. Something called ultra-violet light (UV) has wavelength of about 0.000002 meters.

One More Time

Compare different types of light. You will see that as you move up the EM spectrum and the wavelengths get smaller, those types of light have more energy. The big idea to remember is that light consists of both waves, and energy (transmitted with particles). EM radiation, like gamma waves and cosmic waves, has huge amounts of energy compared to a radio wave. When you look at the visible part of the spectrum, you will see that violet light is more energetic than light from the red part of the spectrum.

Next page on the Earth's energy.
Return to Top of Page
Or search the sites for a specific topic.

Link to Link to Link to Link to Link to Link to Rader Network Side Navigation

What are Gamma Rays? (NASA/GSFC Video)
Did you know? Physics Fact.

Energy Earth Quiz

Electromagnetic Energy Quiz

Related Links

Geography4Kids: Solar Radiation
Chem4Kids: Matter
Chem4Kids: Heat and Cold
Chem4Kids: Astrochemistry
Cosmos4Kids: Earth
Cosmos4Kids: The Sun
Physics4Kids: Light
Physics4Kids: Thermodynamics
Physics4Kids: Motion
Physics4Kids: Electricity

NASA: Kennedy Space Center
NASA: Goddard Spaceflight Center

Physics4Kids Sections

Rader's Network of Science and Math Sites