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Frequently Asked Questions...

What was the highest energy photon ever observed, and what were its properties?

Best Answer...


Can't speak specifically, but the gamma rays coming from outer space are way up there on the energy scale. They have their origins in supernovae and other spectacular celestial events like galactic collisions, large atomic explosions on Earth also emit some gamma rays... they can come from anywhere where enormous energies are involved. Some of the observed gamma rays have come from way out there in the galaxy. Further, they follow the curves of space; so they are affected by gravitational lenses.[See source.]

As E = hf = hc/L is the energy equation for all photon energy, we would expect gamma ray wavelengths L to be very very short as gamma rays are located on the extreme upper end of the electro magnetic spectrum. They are... in the order of 10^-12 meters. h is Planck's constant, c is light speed in a vacuum, and L ~ 10^-12 meters; so you can look up h and c, and solve for E in joules to find what level of energy a gamma ray photon might have.

And, of course, as a photon, a gamma ray travels at light speed. In fact gamma rays are made up of nothing more than very very very energetic photons; so they behave pretty much like visible light... only more so. That is, they have wave functions and group wave characteristics just like light with its dual wave-corpuscular nature.

They also travel forever without end, like light, unless interceded. But as really high energy stuff, gamma rays go through just about everything, like light goes through transparent glass. Thus, not much intercedes gamma rays. But the good news for us on Earth is that a magnetic field can divert the rays and cause them to circumnavigate our planet. This is a good thing because otherwise we'd be fried by the gamma rays... or more likely, life as we know it would not have evolved on Earth. Gamma rays are very dangerous because of their extreme energies.

In general, whatever visible light does, gamma rays also do... only more energetically.