What are electromagnetic waves? If you ever listened to a radio, talked on a cell phone, turned on a light, used a microwave, or had an x-ray, you have experienced electromagnetic waves. Let’s review the parts of a wave.

Interactive exercise. Assistance may be required. Click on the different parts of the wave to see their definitions.

Waves traveling through ropes, springs, the air, or water are everyday examples of waves. These types of waves transfer energy from one place to another and require a medium through which to travel. Electromagnetic waves can transfer energy with or without a medium.

Electromagnetic waves travel as vibrations. The energy that is transferred by electromagnetic waves is called electromagnetic radiation. Much of the electromagnetic energy on Earth originates from the Sun. Since electromagnetic radiation does not need a medium, it can travel through outer space. This is why light from the Sun and stars can travel down to Earth.