Light is divided into visible light and invisible light. Light that we can detect makes up the visible light spectrum, while ultraviolet light describes light that we can't detect. This type of light has both benefits and drawbacks.
Scientists classify UV light into three spectrums. UV-A, known as long-wave UV or black light, tans skin and poses little threat to humans. The ozone mainly absorbs the second group known as UV-B, but what little filters through can age skin and cause cancer or cataracts. Shortwave UV, known as UV-C, causes some redness in skin and eye irritation but doesn't lead to cancer or cataracts; instead, this form disinfects the air.
NASA scientists use UV rays to study planets and stars. They observe the amount of UV light put off by celestial bodies using equipment such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer and the International Ultraviolet Explorer. By looking at the UV light from these bodies, scientists learn the ages, sizes and distances of them.
The disinfecting powers of ultraviolet light has been used in hospitals for the disinfection of surgical equipment and air. Food and drug companies also use UV light to disinfect their products. This occurs through a photochemical reaction in which the light directly hits an object and breaks down harmful germs, preventing them from reproducing.
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