PATHWAYS TO ANSWERS: THE SCIENTIFIC PROCESS IN ACTION
THE HERSCHEL EXPERIMENT
this lesson, students find out that there is radiation other
than visible light arriving from the Sun. The students reproduce
a version of William Herschel’s experiment of 1800 that
discovered the existence of infrared radiation. The process
of conducting the experiment and placing it in the historical
context illustrates how scientific discoveries are often made
via creative thinking, careful design of the experiment, and
adaptation of the experiment to accommodate unexpected results.
Students will discuss current uses of infrared radiation and
learn that it is both very beneficial and a major concern
for planetary explorations such as the MESSENGER mission to
Are there forms
of light other than visible light emitted by the Sun?
of Sir William Herschel, who discovered the existence of infrared
radiation in 1800. (Picture credit: NASA/IPAC; http://www.ipac.caltech.edu/Outreach/Edu/herschel.gif)
- Visible light consists
of different colors.
of invisible forms of light in addition to visible light, one
of which is infrared light.
- Scientific discoveries
are sometimes made by chance, as a by-product of another investigation.
The MESSENGER mission
to Mercury uses infrared light to study properties of the planet,
and it is therefore beneficial to the mission. However, too much
infrared radiation is detrimental to the spacecraft and its instruments,
and engineers are faced with this problem when designing the MESSENGER
spacecraft and mission.