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Relative Abundance of Light Frequencies?

by mishima
Tags: abundance, frequencies, light, relative
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mishima
#1
Dec16-12, 11:59 PM
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I was curious if anyone had ever seen information about how often one frequency of electromagnetic radiation appears in the universe compared to the other. What is the most common frequency or range of frequencies, etc? Is there a way to even estimate this?
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chill_factor
#2
Dec17-12, 12:41 AM
P: 899
microwave dominates everything as that's the cosmic background.
mishima
#3
Dec17-12, 07:56 AM
P: 343
Ah, of course. How about second most abundant?

mfb
#4
Dec17-12, 10:10 AM
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Relative Abundance of Light Frequencies?

In terms of photon number, I would expect it to be ordered by frequency: More microwave photons than infrared, more infrared than visible, more visible than UV and so on.

In terms of energy, high-energetic photons have some advantage, of course. Visible light <-> infrared might be interesting. UV, X-rays and gamma rays are rare, I would not expect that the order changes here.
sophiecentaur
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Dec17-12, 01:04 PM
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An object (so called black body) at any temperature will emit a spectrum of em radiation. This link shows how the spectrum varies with the temperature of the emitter and there are many more you can find. There is a maximum wavelength for each spectrum.
There are a very large number of bodies, all at different temperatures (stars, gas clouds, rocks etc.) and they all will be producing different spectra with different maxima (plus they will all be constantly absorbing radiation from elsewhere). There will be an effective 'representative' /mean temperature if you look in all directions from here which is actually pretty cold (about 3K) which is the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation which is arriving from all directions and that implies a wavelength of around 1.8mm (long infra red).
On Earth, we 'see' a mean temperature of about 300K (dominated by the nearby Sun, of course) but most places in the Universe are nowhere near a hot source so the mean temperature, seen from an 'average location' in the Universe will probably be not far above the CMBR temperature . I think this statement must be justified on the grounds that, even from Earth (well within the Galaxy) the CMBR has been measured with some confidence - so, if even from our position, we can 'see' a significant amount of 'really empty space' then that's what you would see, all around you, at most locations in the Universe.
Is there another factor that I have left out - something obvious, to do with the statistics, perhaps?
mfb
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Dec18-12, 08:01 AM
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Quote Quote by sophiecentaur View Post
There is a maximum wavelength for each spectrum.
Why? The Planck spectrum does not have one, and I don't see any reason to expect a maximum wavelength.
At the other side - short wavelength - there is a sharp drop at a temperature-dependent value (if the spectrum is expressed as function of wavelength), but that is not a minimal wavelength either.
jtbell
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Dec18-12, 08:32 AM
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I suspect sophiecentaur meant to say something like "maximum-intensity wavelength" i.e. the wavelength of the peak of the blackbody distribution.
sophiecentaur
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Dec18-12, 09:20 AM
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Quote Quote by jtbell View Post
I suspect sophiecentaur meant to say something like "maximum-intensity wavelength" i.e. the wavelength of the peak of the blackbody distribution.
Right. I was gibbering a bit. I meant the spectral peak (broad, of course).
Khashishi
#9
Dec18-12, 10:17 AM
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Quote Quote by sophiecentaur View Post
On Earth, we 'see' a mean temperature of about 300K (dominated by the nearby Sun, of course)
No, during the day the sunlight we see has a temperature of ~5850K or so (from the temperature of the Sun's photosphere). The Earth's surface is roughly 300K in some regions, so the Earth glows infrared, but the power from the Sun (during the day) greatly exceeds the Earth's thermal glow.
sophiecentaur
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Dec18-12, 10:32 AM
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Quote Quote by Khashishi View Post
No, during the day the sunlight we see has a temperature of ~5850K or so (from the temperature of the Sun's photosphere). The Earth's surface is roughly 300K in some regions, so the Earth glows infrared, but the power from the Sun (during the day) greatly exceeds the Earth's thermal glow.
I was merely arguing that we are (obviously) in thermal equilibrium. We must be losing the same average power that we are absorbing and that means an average effective temperature of around 300K (A simple model involving the Earth being a black conducting ball with no atmosphere, of course). The vast majority of the energy we receive is from the Sun so it 'dominates' our resulting temperature. In most other locations in space, our temperature would be only a few K.
mfb
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Dec18-12, 10:46 AM
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Quote Quote by Khashishi View Post
No, during the day the sunlight we see has a temperature of ~5850K or so (from the temperature of the Sun's photosphere). The Earth's surface is roughly 300K in some regions, so the Earth glows infrared, but the power from the Sun (during the day) greatly exceeds the Earth's thermal glow.
We see ~6000K in a very narrow solid angle. If you average the flux over the full hemisphere, you get a value which is a bit above 300K.

(radius of sun)/(distance to sun) is ~0.005, so the sun covers 0.005^2 of the sky. Radiation scales with T^4, so we would receive the same radiation (~1.3 kW/m^2, but with a completely different spectrum) if the whole sky would glow with 410K. Not the whole surface is perpendicular to the solar radiation, this gives a lower equilibrium temperature. In addition, earth is not a perfect black body, of course.


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