Limit below which we cannot detect light?

In summary, the OP is asking about the lowest frequency that can be detected with instruments. Various frequencies below the visible spectrum are possible to detect, but there is a practical limit to what can be measured due to noise.
  • #1
neopolitan
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0
Mentz114 said:
Are you saying there is no limit below which we cannot detect light ? That's just plain wrong. Our instruments are not infinitly sensitive. Already we have to cool the detectors to very low temperatures.

It was largely irrelevant to the thread where it originally appeared, but I think it is also largely wrong. I am pretty damn sure that we can detect all frequencies below the light spectrum at least down to the ELF radio spectrum - we might have problems with weak signals but not lowish frequencies. Admittedly you need a landmass as the detector (like a peninsular or a subcontinent), but it is technically feasible to detect an ELF signal.

Problems with detecting frequencies below ELF (below 1 hertz for example) would have nothing to do with the temperature of the detectors and more to do with the size of the detectors.

Is this wrong?

I don't think there is any transmitter in the universe that is moving fast enough to cause doppler shift down to below ELF, is there?

cheers,

neopolitan
 
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  • #2
ELF raditation also originates from terrestrial sources (thunderstorms), and is detectable with an antenna:

http://www-pw.physics.uiowa.edu/mcgreevy/

ELF is considered in the audio range- 100-11000 Hz. There's Schumann resonances which occur below 8 Hz, those are also detectable with specialized detectors. I don't know what the 'world record' is for lowest detected frequency.

Note there's a difference between lowest frequency and lowest amplitude. The lowest amplitude that can be detected corresponds with thermal noise, but there's some tricks (lock-in amplifiers) that can get down into the dirt somewhat.
 
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  • #3
What do you mean by amplitude? The intensity? Am I missing something?
 
  • #5
dst said:
What do you mean by amplitude? The intensity? Am I missing something?

Amplitude or intensity- yes. At low frequencies we can coherently detect the radiation (i.e. measure the phase), so the amplitude is measured. At high frequencies (optical), radiation is detected incohreently, so it's the intensity that's measured.
 
  • #6
Mentz114 said:
Why not ? There are lots of things out there that you and I don't know about.

Please read this

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable_universe
and this
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Event_horizon

Ok. Done that.

I agree, the more we learn the more we get to know how little know. I guess a black hole could shift light to ELF frequencies, it's not what I am currently looking at. But do you not wonder why scientists look for x-ray emissions when seeking black holes?

cheers,

neopolitan
 
  • #7
neopolitan said:
It was largely irrelevant to the thread where it originally appeared, but I think it is also largely wrong. I am pretty damn sure that we can detect all frequencies below the light spectrum at least down to the ELF radio spectrum - we might have problems with weak signals but not lowish frequencies. Admittedly you need a landmass as the detector (like a peninsular or a subcontinent), but it is technically feasible to detect an ELF signal.

Problems with detecting frequencies below ELF (below 1 hertz for example) would have nothing to do with the temperature of the detectors and more to do with the size of the detectors.

Is this wrong?

I don't think there is any transmitter in the universe that is moving fast enough to cause doppler shift down to below ELF, is there?

cheers,

neopolitan
The term "light" refers to a certain set of frequencies, i.e. those which are detectable by the human eye, all of which are measureable. ELF is not considered to be light since the frequency is outside of the visual range.

If you are actually asking about the frequency of electromagnetic radiation then, classically, there is no theoretical lower or upper limit to what can be measured. We may simnply not have instruments that can measure certain wavelengths but that could change in the near future.

Best wishes

Pete
 
  • #8
Andy Resnick said:
I don't know what the 'world record' is for lowest detected frequency.
I'm sure many of us have measured some 0 Hz (DC) fields in our time :-p.

Claude.
 
  • #9
The band of frequencies we have trouble detecting is between the upper end of radar and below infrared.
Generally, the terahertz range.
Until recently there were no detectors at all for this area.
 
  • #10
Claude Bile said:
I'm sure many of us have measured some 0 Hz (DC) fields in our time :-p.

Claude.

Erm.. yes. But DC current is not an electromagnetic field, which is what the OP is referring to, I believe.
 
  • #11
I'd like to point out that the quote made by the OP ( something I said in another thread) was in the context of the cosmic expansion, and refers to the event horizon ceated by the expansion. The largest red-shift observed is about 7.

An earlier thread
https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=114745

From Wiki -
The luminous point-like cores of quasars were the first "high-redshift" (z > 0.1) objects discovered before the improvement of telescopes allowed for the discovery of other high-redshift galaxies. Currently, the highest measured quasar redshift is z = 6.4,[46] with the highest confirmed spectroscopic redshift of a galaxy being IOK-1[47], at a redshift of 6.96, and the highest lensed galaxy redshift being z = 7.0[48] while as-yet unconfirmed reports from a gravitational lens observed in a distant galaxy cluster may indicate a galaxy with a redshift of z = 10.
It was also the improvement in IR detector technology that drove this research forward.
So radio astronomy ( so far) doesn't come into it. I don't know why the OP won't acept the simple truth that there is a lower limit of frequency and/or amplitude that our instruments will probably never overcome.
 
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  • #12
But is it a specific/hard limit or just an asymptote? The limit on amplitude, for example, is single-digit photons per second over an area determined by how big the detector is. So that means we can get arbitrarily close to zero based almost soley on how much effort we decide to put into building big detectors.
 
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  • #13
Mentz114 said:
I'd like to point out that the quote made by the OP ( something I said in another thread) was in the context of the cosmic expansion, and refers to the event horizon ceated by the expansion. The largest red-shift observed is about 7.

I did actually ask this
I don't think there is any transmitter in the universe that is moving fast enough to cause doppler shift down to below ELF, is there?

Perhaps I was insufficiently clear, since we were talking about telescopes and light, I assumed the doppler shift was of light. EMR which is already prettly low can be shifted lower, to below ELF, but I meant light - there is no transmitter moving fast enough (relative to us) to doppler shift visible light down to below ELF. What you say here confirms that since the relevant equation is (rearranged from wiki, to make it easier to write here)

z + 1 =(frequency emitted)/(frequency observed)

Using a frequency emitted in the middle of green (575 terahertz) and z=10 (the highest as yet unconfirmed value that you quoted), this gives us

11 = 575 tHz / (frequency observed)

frequency observed = 575 tHz / 11 = 52 tHz

This is at the lower end of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terahertz_radiation" and it is difficult to detect in our atmosphere, due to absorption. As wiki indicates, it was challenging to detect at all until the 1990s. Challenging, not impossible.

If you got an even greater redshift, enough to push the frequency even lower, it is actually easier to detect the radiation, as you get into microwaves, and even radiowaves.

However, the values of z you are talking about here are magnitudes higher than observed.

Mentz114 said:
I don't know why the OP won't acept the simple truth that there is a lower limit of frequency and/or amplitude that our instruments will probably never overcome.

Frequency, no, amplitude, yes. But as Russ Watters pointed out, with the will we could feasibly make more and more accurate detectors, until it gets ridiculous and you are devoting planet sized detectors to detect weak (low amplitude) signals, which probably will be drowned out anyway in all the stronger - local - signals around due to the frequency spread associated with square waves (emitted for example from the equipment you have to use to build the detector itself).

Note however, that in the original post I said:

we might have problems with weak signals but not lowish frequencies

Weak signals = low amplitude. Perhaps I should have made that more clear, but I thought it was obvious at the time.

cheers,

neopolitan
 
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Related to Limit below which we cannot detect light?

1. What is the limit below which we cannot detect light?

The limit below which we cannot detect light is known as the threshold of human vision, or the absolute threshold. This is the minimum amount of light energy that can be detected by the human eye.

2. What factors affect the threshold of human vision?

Several factors can affect the threshold of human vision, including the amount of light present, the size of the object emitting the light, and the sensitivity of the individual's eyes.

3. Is there a universal threshold for all individuals?

No, the threshold of human vision can vary from person to person. Factors such as age, eye health, and genetics can all play a role in an individual's threshold for detecting light.

4. Can technology detect light below the human threshold?

Yes, technology such as cameras and sensors can detect light that is below the human threshold. These devices are able to detect a wider range of light wavelengths and can amplify low light signals to make them visible to humans.

5. How is the threshold of human vision measured?

The threshold of human vision is measured using a method called psychophysics. This involves presenting a stimulus (such as a dim light) and gradually increasing or decreasing its intensity until the individual can just barely detect it. This threshold is then recorded and used for comparison in further experiments.

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