Infrared astronomy is the branch of astronomy and astrophysics that studies astronomical objects visible in infrared (IR) radiation. The wavelength of infrared light ranges from 0.75 to 300 micrometers. Infrared falls in between visible radiation, which ranges from 380 to 750 nanometers, and submillimeter waves.
Infrared astronomy began in the 1830s, a few decades after the discovery of infrared light by William Herschel in 1800. Early progress was limited, and it was not until the early 20th century that conclusive detections of astronomical objects other than the Sun and Moon were detected in infrared light. After a number of discoveries were made in the 1950s and 1960s in radio astronomy, astronomers realized the information available outside of the visible wavelength range, and modern infrared astronomy was established.
Infrared and optical astronomy are often practiced using the same telescopes, as the same mirrors or lenses are usually effective over a wavelength range that includes both visible and infrared light. Both fields also use solid state detectors, though the specific type of solid state detectors used are different. Infrared light is absorbed at many wavelengths by water vapor in the Earth's atmosphere, so most infrared telescopes are at high elevations in dry places, above as much of the atmosphere as possible. There are also infrared observatories in space, including the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory.