On Earth, we can use our five senses to learn about the world around us, but the primary way that we learn about more remote phenomena is through our perception of light in its various forms, and most light is produced by collisions of atoms with each other or with electrons.
The wavelength of the light produced by collisions depends on the speed of the colliding atoms, and the structure of the atom, which varies from one element to the next. Room-temperature collisions typically produce infrared light, higher speed collisions produce optical and ultraviolet light, and collisions typical of multimillion degree gases produce X-rays.
For a general introduction to the processes that produce light, see
Image: Seacoast Signs/J. Ortega
Image: Stan Richard. nightskyevents.com
Image: NASA/CXC/NCSU/K.J.Borkowski et al.
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"Here, There, & Everywhere" (HTE) is supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under grant NNX11AH28G issued through the Science Mission Directorate.