Optical astronomy today includes ultraviolet astronomy , visual astronomy, and most of infrared astronomy . Until around 1920, optical astronomy had to be limited to visible light and closely spaced (photographically effective) UV. From the 1950s onwards, highly sensitive sensors were also developed for infrared and further UV.
The earth's atmosphere absorbs most of the electromagnetic waves that reach us from space. There are essentially two atmospheric windows available for observational astronomy on the earth's surface : one that covers the range of visible light and a second that covers the longer-wave radio waves . Before observatories outside the Earth's atmosphere - i. H. astronomical satellites - when available, observational astronomy only differentiated between optical and radio astronomy .
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