Black body radiation


In physics, Black-body radiation is the type of electromagnetic radiation

  • within or surrounding a body in thermodynamic equilibrium with its environment, 
  • or emitted by a black body (an opaque and non-reflective body) held at constant, uniform temperature. 

The radiation has a specific spectrum and intensity that depends only on the temperature of the body.

The thermal radiation spontaneously emitted by many ordinary objects can be approximated as blackbody radiation. A perfectly insulated enclosure that is in thermal equilibrium internally contains black-body radiation and will emit it through a hole made in its wall, provided the hole is small enough to have negligible effect upon the equilibrium.

Why it is called black-body

A black-body at room temperature appears black, as most of the energy it radiates is infra-red and cannot be perceived by the human eye. At higher temperatures, black bodies glow with increasing intensity and colors that range from dull red to blindingly brilliant blue-white as the temperature increases.

How it it used in terms of astronomy

Although planets and stars are neither in thermal equilibrium with their surroundings nor perfect black bodies, black-body radiation is used as a first approximation for the energy they emit. 

Black holes are near-perfect black bodies, and it is believed that they emit black-body radiation (called Hawking radiation), with a temperature that depends on the mass of the black hole.

Origin of the term and usage

The term black body was introduced by Gustav Kirchhoff in 1860. When used as a compound adjective, the term is typically written as hyphenated, for example, black-body radiation, but sometimes also as one word, as in blackbody radiation. Black-body radiation is also called complete radiation or temperature radiation or thermal radiation.