PhysLink.com Logo

Question

How are we able to determine the composition of our orbiting planets?
Asked by: J.J. Yrue

Answer

Essentially we look at the light being reflected from the planet. This is called spectroscopy and it involves looking at the wavelengths of all the photons that are coming from the planet. Each element emits light at a characteristic wavelength that can be determined in a lab here on earth. so we just match up the wavelengths of incoming light with the wavelengths we know, and then determine the composition of the planet, and its relative quantity of each element.
Answered by: Mike Perkins, Physics/Astronomy Major, Penn State





Support US

Our server costs have gone up and our advertising revenue has gone down. You do the math! If you find our site useful, consider donating to keep us going. Thanks!


Science Quote

'Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.'

Carl Sagan
(1934-1996)





All rights reserved. © Copyright '1995-'2018 PhysLink.com   Privacy Statement | Cookie Policy