Astrophysics (Index)About

atmospheric window

(frequency bands within which the atmosphere passes EMR)

An atmospheric window is a band of frequencies or wavelengths for which the Earth's atmosphere allows electromagnetic radiation to pass, given that the Earth's atmospheric transparency is limited. To other wavelengths, the atmosphere is opaque, which is a major motivation for space telescopes. Major atmospheric windows:

Within infrared and microwave, there are additional narrower windows, such as the water hole, which allows the 18-cm and 21-cm line to be viewed from the ground. The windows vary as to how transparent they are. Higher altitudes avoid some of the opaqueness, opening some windows to practical use and generally enhancing all the windows, the motivation for locating observatories at high altitudes. Water vapor in air also is a source of opaqueness for some microwave and infrared wavelengths, and dry air (such as found in deserts, and in very cold climates) also improves windows for astronomical use.

Atmospheric windows are a major factor in the behavior of the atmosphere, i.e., weather and climate, as they influence the Sun's warming effect and the Earth's cooling that balances it, i.e., the degree of the greenhouse effect. The windows' characteristics are based upon the atmosphere's constituents, its density, and how the constituents and density are distributed.

Further reading:

Referenced by pages:
Atacama Desert
carbon (C)
Llano de Chajnantor Observatory
ionized carbon fine structure line ([CII])
equilibrium temperature (Teq)
greenhouse effect
H-alpha (Ha)
hydrogen cyanide (HCN)
helium 1083 nm line
infrared (IR)
K band
low frequency radio astronomy
Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT)
MKO photometric system
near infrared (NIR)
precipitable water vapor (PWV)
radio astronomy
ultraviolet (UV)
ultraviolet astronomy
visible light
vegetation red edge (VRE)
Very Small Array (VSA)