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It also discovered a large number of brown dwarfs—objects in interstellar space that are too small to become stars but too massive to be considered planets. The most advanced infrared space observatory is a U.

Together the instruments cover a wavelength range of 3. The Spitzer has determined the temperature and the atmospheric structure, composition , and dynamics of several extrasolar planets. Infrared astronomy. Article Media. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback.

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Start Your Free Trial Today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Longer infrared wavelengths are strongly absorbed by atmospheric water vapour and carbon dioxide. Atmospheric effects can be reduced by careful site selection and by carrying out observations at high altitudes.


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Most major optical observatories are located on high mountains, well away from cities and their reflected…. For the same reason, infrared astronomy enables researchers to observe cosmic objects through large clouds of interstellar dust that scatter infrared radiation substantially less than visible light.

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However, since water vapour, ozone, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere absorb large parts of the infrared spectrum, many infrared astronomical observations…. Infrared radiation reveals the conditions within dark cold molecular clouds, into which starlight cannot penetrate because of absorbing dust layers. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox! All Sky Map of IRAS Point Sources The plane of our galaxy runs horizontally across the image Exploring the Hidden Universe Galactic Center In space, there are many regions which are hidden from optical telescopes because they are embedded in dense regions of gas and dust.

However, infrared radiation, having wavelengths which are much longer than visible light, can pass through dusty regions of space without being scattered. This means that we can study objects hidden by gas and dust in the infrared, which we cannot see in visible light, such as the center of our galaxy and regions of newly forming stars.


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IR Astronomy: Overview Infrared Astronomy is the detection and study of the infrared radiation heat energy emitted from objects in the Universe. All objects emit infrared radiation.

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SOFIA Science Center | Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy

So, Infrared Astronomy involves the study of just about everything in the Universe. In the field of astronomy, the infrared region lies within the range of sensitivity of infrared detectors, which is between wavelengths of about 1 and microns a micron is one millionth of a meter. In space, there are many regions which are hidden from optical telescopes because they are embedded in dense regions of gas and dust. The images to the left, of the central region of our own Milky Way Galaxy and of the Cygnus star-forming region, show how areas which cannot be seen in visible light can show up very brightly in the infrared.

The top row shows these regions in visible red light. At this wavelength we are seeing the light from billions of stars, particularly the largest, brightest ones. Note the dark bands where vast clouds of dust block our view of more distant objects.

Infrared astronomy

The middle row shows the same regions in the near-infrared infrared wavelengths closest to visible light. Cygnus Region. Here the light we see is also generated by stars, but now it better traces the smaller, cooler ones. Notice how the the lanes of dust have become partially transparent, allowing us to see things that are hidden in visible light.

Infrared Light - Cosmic Concepts

Our view of the central bulge of stars in our own Milky Way galaxy is particularly striking since it is almost completely obscured at shorter wavelengths!