A scientist from NASA clearly showed how slow can be the speed of light

The speed of light is the limit, which can move a material object in space, unless, of course, does not take into account the hypothetical wormholes, through which, according to the assumptions, the objects can move in space faster. In a perfect vacuum, a particle of light, a photon, can travel at the speed of 299 792 kilometres per second, or approximately 1,079 billion kilometers per hour. At first glance it may seem that it’s amazingly fast. No, it’s actually fast. But the scale of the cosmos this speed can be painfully slow, especially if we are talking about the radio and flying to other planets, particularly outside of our Solar system.

To any person it easier to understand the limitations of the speed of light a planetary scientist space flight Center NASA Goddard James O’donoghue has created a series of animated videos.

“I made these animations with an eye to clearly and quickly explain the whole context of what I wanted them to reflect. When I was in College, I had to manually draw a complicated concept to understand about anything at all,” — says O’donoghue.

In a conversation with Business Insider O’donoghue said that only recently learned how to make these animations. His first job for NASA was to prepare a video about the rings of Saturn. He then began to animate other difficult to understand cosmic concepts, e.g. visual comparison of the size and speed of rotation of the planets of the Solar system. According to him, this work, published on his personal page in the “Twitter”, has attracted great interest.

His latest work is an attempt to demonstrate how quick and at the same time, slow can be photons.

A visual demonstration of the movement of photons around the Earth

In the first animated movie O’donoghue showed how fast light can move relative to the Earth.

The length of the equator of our planet is about 40 thousand kilometers. If she didn’t have the atmosphere (the particles contained in it, are a bit slow light), the photon, sliding along its surface, would have made almost 7.5 complete revolution in 1 second (or 0.13 seconds per revolution).

Despite the fact that in such a scenario the speed of light seems incredibly fast, the movie also demonstrates that it is finite.

How quickly the light covers the distance between the earth and the Moon

In the second clip O’donoghue covers a greater distance from the earth to the moon.

The average distance between our planet and its natural satellite is 384 000 kilometres. This means that the observed sky on the lunar light overcomes this distance for 1,255 seconds, and the road there and back, for example, when transmitting radio messages between Earth and spacecraft is of 2.51 seconds.

Note that with each passing day, this time increases because every year the Moon is moving away from Earth by about 3.8 centimeters (Moon constantly drains the energy of rotation of the Earth via gravitational tidal interactions. The consequences of this effect are the change of the satellite orbit).

How quickly the light covers the distance between Earth and Mars

In the third movie O’donoghue demonstrated the problem that many scientists face on a daily basis.

When employees aerospace Agency NASA are trying to upload and receive data from the satellite, for example, the same probe InSight, now working at Mars, the transfer of messages occurs at the speed of light. However, it is not enough to control the machine in “real time”. So the team should be carefully considered, maximally compressed and sent to the exact time and place not to miss destination.

The fast transmission of messages between Earth and Mars is possible at the moment, when the planets are at closest point of approach. However, this happens only about once in two years. In addition, even in this case, we are separated by a distance of about 54.6 million kilometers. In the video, O’donoghue shows that at this distance, light takes 3 minutes and 2 seconds to get from one planet to another, or 6 minutes on both sides.

On average, Earth and Mars share the distance of 254 million kilometers, so an average two-way transmission of messages takes about 28 minutes and 12 seconds.

The farther the distance, the depressing becomes the “efficiency” speed of light

Illustration of space “nano-probes” Breakthrough Starshot accelerated very powerful laser beam and the guide to the star system of alpha Centauri

The speed limit of light poses greater challenges to the spacecraft further away from Earth. For example, the same probe “New horizons“, which is now 6.64 billion kilometers from us, or “the Voyager-1 and Voyager-2”, which reached the border of the Solar system.

Very sad the situation is, if we are talking about the transmission of the message to another star system. For example, the closest of the known exoplanets, b Proxima is about 4.2 light years from us (about a 39.7 trillion kilometers). Even if we take the fastest at the moment, spacecraft, solar probe, Parker, able to reach speeds of 343 000 kilometers per hour, even he will need about 13 211 years just to reach Proxima b.

Liked the article? Subscribe to our Telegram channelto be updated with the most interesting events from the world of science and technology.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *