Microwaves Explained!

Microwaves have wavelengths that can be measured in centimeters! The longer microwaves, those closer to a foot in length, are the waves which heat our food in a microwave oven.

Microwaves are good for transmitting information from one place to another because microwave energy can penetrate haze, light rain and snow, clouds, and smoke.

Shorter microwaves are used in remote sensing. These microwaves are used for radar like the doppler radar used in weather forecasts. Microwaves, used for radar, are just a few inches long.

This microwave tower can transmit information like telephone calls and computer data from one city to another.

How do we “see” using Microwaves?

Radar is an acronym for “radio detection and ranging”. Radar was developed to detect objects and determine their range (or position) by transmitting short bursts of microwaves. The strength and origin of “echoes” received from objects that were hit by the microwaves is then recorded.

Because radar senses electromagnetic waves that are a reflection of an active transmission, radar is considered an active remote sensing system. Passive remote sensing refers to the sensing of electromagnetic waves which did not originate from the satellite or sensor itself. The sensor is just a passive observer.

What do Microwaves show us?

What do Microwaves show us?

Satellite image of Alaskan shores D Because microwaves can penetrate haze, light rain and snow, clouds and smoke, these waves are good for viewing the Earth from space.The ERS-1 satellite sends out wavelengths about 5.7 cm long (C-band). This image shows sea ice breaking off the shores of Alaska.
The Amazon River D The JERS satellite uses wavelengths about 20 cm in length (L-band). This is an image of the Amazon River in Brazil.
Salt Lake City, UtahD This is a radar image acquired from the Space Shuttle. It also used a wavelength in the L-band of the microwave spectrum. Here we see a computer enhanced radar image of some mountains on the edge of Salt Lake City, Utah.

science.hq.nasa.gov

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