thermal radiation


thermal radiation

Process by which energy is emitted by a warm surface. The energy is electromagnetic radiation and so travels at the speed of light and does not require a medium to carry it. Thermal radiation ranges in frequency from infrared rays through visible light to ultraviolet rays. The intensity and frequency distribution of the emitted rays are determined by the nature and temperature of the emitting surface; in general, the hotter the object, the shorter the wavelength. A hotter object is a better emitter than a cooler one, and a blackened surface is a better emitter than a silvered one. An example of thermal radiation is the heating of the Earth by the Sun.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on thermal radiation, visit Britannica.com.

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