How does light carry information about stars, galaxies and other celestial objects?

Light is a form of electromagnetic radiation. Visible light is a narrow range of wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. By measuring the wavelength or frequency of light coming from objects in the universe, we can learn something about their nature. Since we are not able to travel to a star or take samples from a galaxy, we must depend on electromagnetic radiation to carry information to us from distant objects in space.

The human eye is sensitive to a very small range of wavelengths called visible light. However, most objects in the universe radiate at wavelengths that our eyes cannot see. Astronomers use telescopes with detection devices that are sensitive to wavelengths other than visible light, allowing astronomers to study objects that emit this radiation, otherwise invisible to us.

Computer techniques then code the light into arbitrary colors that we CAN see. The Hubble Space Telescope is able to measure wavelengths from about 0.1150 to 2 micrometers, a range that covers more than just visible light. These measurements of light enable astronomers to determine certain physical characteristics of objects, such as their temperature, composition, and velocity.

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