Visible Spectrum

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This diagram is about sunlight, the visible spectrum and which wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation correspond with the different colours we see in the world.


The diagram shows that wavelengths of light within the visible spectrum correspond with the different colours we see in the world.

Notice that:

  • The white arrows in the diagram represent the Sun emitting sunlight at every wavelength of the visible spectrum.
  • The term white light is used when all colours of the visible spectrum are mixed together.
  • The coloured arrows represent six bands of wavelengths of visible light corresponding with red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.
  • The list on the left shows the range of wavelengths corresponding with each band of colour.
  • The red arrow, for example, corresponds with wavelengths between 700 nanometres and 620 nanometres.
  • Red is the colour an observer sees if any wavelength in that range strikes a neutral coloured surface.
  • The scale along the bottom is marked in nanometres and shows the visible spectrum divided into coloured bands.

Description

Visible Spectrum

Visible Spectrum

TRY SOME QUICK QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS TO GET STARTED
The relationship between wavelength and colour is that wavelength is a property of electromagnetic waves whilst human observers see different wavelengths as different colours.
The visible spectrum is the small part of the electromagnetic spectrum our eyes are tuned to.
The visible spectrum is associated with the colours red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.
Yes! The visible spectrum is composed of wavelengths between 390 to 700 nanometers and each wavelength is associated with a different colour.

About the diagram

About the diagram
  • This diagram is about sunlight, the visible spectrum and which wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation correspond with the different colours we see in the world.
  • The diagram shows that wavelengths of light within the visible spectrum correspond with the different colours we see in the world.
Notice that:
  • The white arrows in the diagram represent the Sun emitting sunlight at every wavelength of the visible spectrum.
  • The term white light is used when all colours of the visible spectrum are mixed together.
  • The coloured arrows represent six bands of wavelengths of visible light corresponding with red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.
  • The list on the left shows the range of wavelengths corresponding with each band of colour.
  • The red arrow, for example, corresponds with wavelengths between 700 nanometres and 620 nanometres.
  • Red is the colour an observer sees if any wavelength in that range strikes a neutral-coloured surface.
  • The scale along the bottom is marked in nanometres and shows the visible spectrum divided into coloured bands.
Remember that:
  • Objects appear to be different colours to an observer depending on their wavelength.
  • The name given to light that contains all wavelengths of the visible spectrum is white light.
  • When all wavelengths contained in white light reflect off a neutral-coloured surface then the object appears white to an observer.
  • When a narrow band of wavelengths reflect off a neutral-coloured surface then the object appears coloured to an observer.
  • The colour an observer sees depends on the wavelengths of visible light emitted by a light source and on which of those wavelengths are reflected off an object.
  • Although a human observer can distinguish between many thousands of wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum our brains often produce the impression of bands of colour.

Some key terms

A nanometre is a unit of measurement of the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation.

Wavelength is a measurement from any point on the path of a wave to the same point on its next oscillation. The measurement is made parallel to the centre-line of the wave.

  • The wavelength of an electromagnetic wave is measured in metres.
  • Each type of electromagnetic radiation, such as radio waves, visible light and gamma waves,  forms a band of wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • The visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum is composed of the range of wavelengths that correspond with all the different colours we see in the world.
  • Human beings don’t see wavelengths of visible light, but they do see the spectral colours that correspond with each wavelength and the other colours produced when different wavelengths are combined.
  • The wavelength of visible light is measured in nanometres. There are 1,000,000,000 nanometres to a metre.

The perception of colour by an observer results from properties of light that are visible to the human eye. The visual experience of colour is associated with terms like red, blue and yellow.

The electromagnetic spectrum includes electromagnetic waves with all possible wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, ranging from low energy radio waves through visible light to high energy gamma rays.

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