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The electromagnetic spectrum is the collective term for all known frequencies and their linked wavelengths of the known photons ( electromagnetic radiation ). The "electromagnetic spectrum" of an object has a different meaning, and is instead the characteristic distribution of electromagnetic radiation emitted or absorbed by that particular object.
The electromagnetic spectrum extends from below the low frequencies used for modern radio communication to gamma radiation at the short-wavelength (high-frequency) end, thereby covering wavelengths from thousands of kilometers down to a fraction of the size of an atom. Visible light lies toward the shorter end, with wavelengths from 400 to 700 nanometres. The limit for long wavelengths is the size of the universe itself, while it is thought that the short wavelength limit is in the vicinity of the Planck length. Until the middle of the 20th century it was believed by most physicists that this spectrum was infinite and continuous.
For most of history, visible light was the only known part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The ancient Greeks recognized that light traveled in straight lines and studied some of its properties, including reflection and refraction. The study of light continued, and during the 16th and 17th centuries conflicting theories regarded light as either a wave or a particle.
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