Astronomy nowadays is not limited to the visible spectrum. Here are some items from the past week to show what I mean.
Infrared and visible-light astronomers have detected a blue and a red ring around the planet Uranus (that’s YOU-ran-us, wiseguy), similar to rings found around Saturn. Each ring seems to be associated with a moon.
A white dwarf star in the constellation Ophiucus (the 13th zodiacal sign, in case you didn’t know) has just repeated its periodic outburst of energy, called a nova. The outburst occurs roughly every 20 years. While the visible light portion of the outburst is pretty much over, the nova is still radiating in the non-visible portions of the spectrum. Novas are not to be confused with supernovas, which occur when stars explode and “die.” In this case, the white dwarf is sucking material from a companion red giant star.
Meanwhile, radio astronomers have detected a huge cloud of methanol in a “stellar nursery” in the constellation Cassiopeia. That’s the W-shaped constellation across the north celestial pole (NCP) from the Big Dipper; at times Cassiopeia can also look like an E, a 3, or an M, since it appears to rotate around the NCP. Methanol, of course, is an organic molecule, which are found in surprising amounts in space.
The NASA probe that collided with Comet Tempel 1 ejected about 250,000 tons of water, according to astronomers on the Swift mission team. Swift is a gamma-ray and X-ray telescope in space, and was one of many telescopes trained on Tempel 1 when the probe deliberately slammed into it. The amount of water ejected over a two week period would fill about 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools, or a whole lot of water bottles.
For reference, the electromagnetic spectrum looks like this:
radio – microwave – infrared – ROYGBIV – ultraviolet – X-ray – gamma ray
Photon energy and wave frequency increase as you move to the right. All EM waves travel at the speed of light.