# What does an electromagnetic wave look like at a fixed moment in time?

I am curious what the electric and magnetic field's of light look like when time is stopped. A "photograph" or illustration/description of these fields at a moment in time is what I desire.

Also, does the picture change at various points in the wave?

I assume that this is like a "time exposure" of a light wave.

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I suggest to change the title (v1) into the less dramatic What does an electromagnetic wave look like at a fixed instant of time? – Qmechanic Jul 18 '11 at 20:47
@Qmechanic: good idea, done ;-) Feel free to make those edits yourself when you can do it without changing the meaning of the question. – David Z Jul 18 '11 at 20:54
@Joe, No, the link you gave is not a time exposure of a light wave. It is a depiction of the electric and magnetic fields at different places at the same time - exactly what you're asking for. – Mark Eichenlaub Jul 19 '11 at 6:59
@Mark Eichenlaub Surely there is a defined length (z-direction if E and B are in x and y) to the sinusoidal wave depiction of light. – Dale Jul 19 '11 at 13:39
@Joe Of course there is, and it is already drawn into the picture and clearly labeled with the word "wavelength". – Mark Eichenlaub Jul 19 '11 at 17:51

Have a look at the graphic in Lubos Motl's answer to another electromagnetic question.

It shows a polarised plane wave propagating in time and you can take a time projection that answers your question. Unpolarised plane waves have all possible orientations in space.

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It's like a sine wave. If you plot a sine wave on graph paper, from 0 - 1. You can see it.

I've honestly seen no explanation, that I understood, that explained the exact the exact correlation, but, mathematically, it's a perfect fit.

Oh, you might want to use 'polar plot' graphing paper. It makes the mathematics trivial.

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Could you explain what the axis labels would be if you were to make such a graph? – pentane Jan 30 '15 at 13:05