The Slow Speed of Light
Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 6:00AM
Randy in distance, light, scale, space, speed, sun, video

Riding Light from Alphonse Swinehart on Vimeo.

 

We think of the speed of light as incredibly fast, but in the video Riding Light, by Alphonse Swinehart, we ride along with light as it starts in our Sun and moves out past Jupiter in our solar system. The video is 45 minutes long and helps show both how large our solar system is, and that it still takes light a long time to travel these large distances.

In our terrestrial view of things, the speed of light seems incredibly fast. But as soon as you view it against the vast distances of the universe, it's unfortunately very slow. This animation illustrates, in realtime, the journey of a photon of light emitted from the surface of the sun and traveling across a portion of the solar system, from a human perspective.

I've taken liberties with certain things like the alignment of planets and asteroids, as well as ignoring the laws of relativity concerning what a photon actually "sees" or how time is experienced at the speed of light, but overall I've kept the size and distances of all the objects as accurate as possible. I also decided to end the animation just past Jupiter as I wanted to keep the running length below an hour.

During the course of the video, I also love the data visualziations shown during the flight, like how large the orbits of different planets appear to us as we move outward.

Also available on YouTube:

Article originally appeared on Cool Infographics (http://www.coolinfographics.com/).
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