Extinction is the phenomena of no light from a star reaching Earth because of absorption or scattering, such as by dust (dust extinction). Objects bright enough to show through the dust are likely to experience reddening. Extinction due to dust and/or gas clouds in the interstellar medium (ISM) is called interstellar extinction.
Atmospheric extinction refers to absorption and scattering affecting observation that's specifically due to the Earth's atmosphere. Wavelength bands less effected by atmospheric extinction are known as atmospheric windows.
An extinction curve is the function of degree of extinction against wavelength. A particular galaxy often has a characteristic curve related to characteristics of its ISM and star formation.
The term extinction coefficient is used for a measure of extinction by some grains of dust per given wavelength, i.e., showing the underlying mechanism of reddening. Obviously the extinction coefficient depends upon the characteristics of the grain. The fact that it is generally also inversely proportional to the wavelength implies reddening:
σλ Qλ = —— σg
Features of the spectrum (e.g., bumps, dips, spectral lines) give hints to dust constituents and size, and polarization suggests non-spherical grains that are aligned.