# X-Ray or Gamma Ray

My question is, if X-Ray and Gamma rays overlap in the EMR spectrum, then how can they be classified differently. I have read about different energy levels but i'm just afraid i'm missing something is that the only difference?

mfb
Mentor
The definition is arbitrary. Some define it based on the energy range, some define it based on the production mechanism (electrons vs. nuclei). So what? Use whatever definition you prefer.

They are both very high frequency EM radiation.
Originally the distinction had more to do with the source than to do with being above or below some given wavelength.
X rays are emitted when an electron undergoes a transition to a different energy level.
Gamma rays are emitted by nuclear processes.
Generally Gamma rays are more energetic.

newjerseyrunner
Thanks, i just thought that since all other waves in the spectrum had a definite classification it was somewhat strange that 2 different waves can technically be classed as the same thing in terms of 2 fundamental things that make up a wave (being wavelength and frequency) I still don't understand fully the concept of the energy of a wave although i do know it is related to its amplitude. I just thought amplitude might be the key difference but if it can also be defined from the production mechanism that may not be the case.

mfb
Mentor
This has nothing to do with an amplitude - which is not a good concept for most x-rays and gamma rays anyway.
The relevant quantity is frequency, or (equivalently) wavelength. This can also be translated to the energy per photon.

i just thought that since all other waves in the spectrum had a definite classification
The other ranges don't have completely clear borders either.

newjerseyrunner
mathman
Thanks, i just thought that since all other waves in the spectrum had a definite classification it was somewhat strange that 2 different waves can technically be classed as the same thing in terms of 2 fundamental things that make up a wave (being wavelength and frequency) I still don't understand fully the concept of the energy of a wave although i do know it is related to its amplitude. I just thought amplitude might be the key difference but if it can also be defined from the production mechanism that may not be the case.
Energy (in the discussion here) depends on frequency, not amplitude. In general there are no sharp dividing lines between different types. For example infra-red and microwaves don't have a sharp distinction.

Thanks, I drew the assumption from one of my physics textbooks that only showed X-rays and Gamma rays overlapping. It didnt touch on infra red and microwaves. So does the amplitude of the wave have nothing to do with energy. I know it is related to intensity, and i thought intensity is a measure of power per unit area, and power is related to energy

mfb
Mentor
So does the amplitude of the wave have nothing to do with energy.
It does, but it is not related to the energy per photon - which is usually the implied meaning of "high-energetic rays" or similar phrases.

I found this thread very interesting, I had no idea that these things were defined more by how they're produced.

Ah, this must have to do with the wave-particle duality. Thanks for the info. More research needed in the quantum side of light instead of just thinking of waves I think!