Cernan Earth and Space Center
Cosmic Colors: An Adventure along the Spectrum
Grade Level: Fifth grade and upLength: 32 minutes
Cosmic Colors is a FULL DOME video presentation that takes viewers on a wondrous journey across the entire electromagnetic spectrum. In this planetarium program, viewers will discover the reasons for color and the fact that visible light comprises only a small fraction of the full electromagnetic spectrum.
The first section of Cosmic Colors describles color throughout our world and beyond. The program poses and then answers a number of common questions, such as: Why is there color? Why is the sky blue? Why are leaves green? Why is the surface of Mars rusty red? In the process of answering these and other questions, science topics are introduced such as atoms, the aurora borealis, and how prisms break white light into its component colors. Sir Isaac Newton's contribution to our understanding of light is also described. Among other things, Newton was the first person to describe the R-O-Y-G-B-I-V succession of colors in a rainbow - Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.
Each of these major colors is described next, starting with red and ending with violet. In each case, examples of that color are given. Sometimes, these examples are terrestrial objects, such as green grass or violet flowers. Other examples are found in outer space, such as the Rosette Nebula (red), the green hues of the northern lights (aurora borealis), and the Pleiades star cluster (blue). The program next explores why the daytime sky is blue, while the sky at sunset consists of various shades of orange or red instead. Finally, the physiology of the human eye is briefly described, since its component parts collectively enable us humans to see color.
Cosmic Colors next moves beyond human vision to explore the invisible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum - namely gamma rays, x-rays, ultraviolet, infrared, microwave, and radio waves. As with the visible colors, the program gives examples of each type of radiation - such as x-rays used in medical diagnosis and infrared imagers that firefighters use to navigate within smoke-filled rooms. The program also gives examples from cosmic sources, including x-rays emitted from black holes, ultraviolet light emitted from regions of hot, young stars, and the incredibly bright Gamma Ray Bursts.
Finally viewers are reminded that our Sun emits all forms of electromagnetic radiation. Although some of the Sun's emissions are visible light, most of it lies beyond our vision. Fortunately, much of this radiation is either reflected or absorbed by our atmosphere, thereby protecting life on Earth from its harmful or lethal radiation.
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