A series of new animations by a NASA scientist show how fast and how slow the speed of light can be.
The speed of light is the fastest that any material object can move through space. This of course means that there are theoretical shortcuts in the spatial structure called wormholes (and the ability to go through them without being destroyed).
In a completely empty vacuum, a light particle called a photon can cover 299,792 kilometers per second (299,792 kilometers per second) or about 1.079 billion kilometers per hour (1.079 billion kilometers per hour).
This is incredibly fast. However, the speed of light can be frustratingly slow as you try to communicate with or reach other planets, especially with worlds beyond our solar system.
To represent the speed limit of the cosmos in a way that anyone can understand, James O & # 39; Donoghue, a planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, took it upon himself to animate it.
"My animations should show the entire context of what I am trying to convey as momentarily as possible," O & # 39; Donoghue told Business Insider on Twitter . "When I was overhauled for my exams, I just drew complex concepts by hand to really understand something, that's why I do that here."
O & # 39; Donoghue said he had recently learned to create these animations ̵
O & # 39; Donoghue's last effort examines three different speed-of-light scenarios to show how fast (and how painfully slow) photons can be.
How fast the light moves relative to the earth
One of the first animations of O & # 39; Donoghue shows how fast the light moves in relation to the earth.
Earth is in the center 24,901 miles. If our world had no atmosphere (air breaks and the light slows down a bit), a photon running along its surface could overlap the equator almost 7.5 times per second.
The speed of light seems to be quite high – although the film also shows how limited it is.
How fast the light travels between the Earth and the Moon
A second animation of O & # 39; Donoghue takes a big step back from Earth to the Moon.
On average, it's about 384,400 kilometers (238,855 miles) between our planet and its large natural satellite.
This means that all moonlight that we see is 1255 seconds old and a round trip between Earth and Moon at the speed of light takes about 2.51 seconds.
This timing is increasing every day, but the moon drifts farther from the earth at a speed of about 3 inches (1.5 inches). per year. (The moon constantly eats the Earth's rotational energy over the tides of the ocean and continues to increase its orbit.)
How fast light travels between Earth and Mars
O & # 39; Donoghue's third speed of light The animation illustrates that Challenge that many planetary scientists face daily.
When NASA tries to retrieve data from a spacecraft such as the InSight probe on Mars or download data, it can only do so at the speed of light. This is far too slow to operate a spacecraft in "live mode" like a remote-controlled car. Therefore, commands must be carefully thought out and prepackaged, and aligned with the exact position in space at the exact time so that they do not miss their target.
The fastest conversation that could ever take place between Earth and Mars is that of the planets are at their next point, an event called Closest Approach, occurring about once every two years. On average, this distance is at best about 54.6 million kilometers.
As this 60-second clip of O & # 39; Donoghue's movie shows on YouTube, the light shows it takes 3 minutes and 2 seconds to catch up with Earth's next approach to move to Mars. That's six minutes and four seconds for a light flight.
But Mars is on average about 158 million miles from Earth – the average round trip communication takes about 28 minutes and 12 seconds.
The farther you go, the lower the speed of light.
The finite light barrier becomes for spacecraft like New Horizons, which is now more than 4 billion miles from Earth, and for the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes, each of which has reached the space between stars.
The situation becomes downright depressing when you look out of the solar system. The nearest known exoplanet, called Proxima b, is about 4.2 light years away from us (a distance of about 24.7 trillion miles or 39.7 trillion kilometers).
The fastest probe a NASA has ever made is NASA's Parker Solar Probe at about 213,200 miles per hour; At this speed, it would take 13,211 years to reach Proxima b.
The project Breakthrough Starshot of a Russian-American billionaire provides a solution to this speed problem. The multidecade plan envisages flying and flying tiny "nanocrafts" with ultrapowerful laser blasts past such exoplanets, ideally at a scheduled cruising speed of 20% of the speed of light. The whole concept, however, is still theoretical, can not work in the end, and would work at a fraction of the speed of light.
The room is unbelievably big. Although the universe is approximately 13.77 billion years old, its edge is approximately 45.34 billion light-years away in each direction and grows due to expansion.
This is far too big to illustrate in a simple animation. However, an illustration comes closer: this image was created by musician Pablo Carlos Budassi, who combined logarithmic maps of the Princeton universe and NASA images to capture everything in one image.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
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