A Scientist of NASA Proves that the Speed of Light is Extraordinarily Slow

A Scientist of NASA Proves that the Speed of Light is Extraordinarily Slow

Speed of Light is Slow

Animations of a NASA scientist show that light is considerably slow when extended to a cosmic scale.

According to popular opinion on the subject is that light is one of the fastest things in the universe. It’s so fast for us that we are unable to notice it as it passes through. The approximate speed of light, in a vacuum, is 300,000 m/s. For a person who travels at a speed of 80 km/h on a highway, it is outrageously fast but when we extend the scale to a cosmic level, the speed of light is excruciatingly slow. It takes 45 minutes for light to reach Jupiter from the Sun and about 5 hours to reach Pluto. Similarly, human spacecraft are also incredibly slow when compared to the pace of light. James O’Donoghue, a Scientist at NASA who created the animations that showed the slow speed of light, said,

“My animations were made to show as instantly as possible the whole context of what I’m trying to convey. When I revised for my exams, I used to draw complex concepts out by hand just to truly understand, so that’s what I’m doing here.”

How do we know the speed of light is slow?

O’Donoghue created three animations. The first one depicts the speed of light relative to Earth’s surface. The second puts in perspective how light travels between the Earth and the Moon. The last animation shows the time taken by light to travel between Earth and Mars. From the first animation, it seems as if the light is extremely fast: completing a whopping 7.5 orbits per second. This value is attained after putting certain constraints in place such as ‘no atmosphere’ because refraction in air slows light down. Things slow down a bit in the second animation. The video shows light bouncing back and forth between Earth and the Moon. This time, light takes 1.255 seconds to cover the distance (384,400 km) between the two bodies. The noticeably fast speed of light is still visible in the animation.

The third animation is where the sluggish speed of light becomes apparent. As we move to a longer distance, the light seems to move extremely slow. The distance between the Earth and Mars on the shortest approach is about 54.6 million kilometers. The 300,000 m/s speed seems visibly slow as the light takes 3 minutes and 2 seconds to cover the distance. However, when the orbits are not perfect, the distance can increase up to 158 million miles. This increases the one-way travel time by about 11 minutes. The distance may seem immense, but things start to seem hopeless as the closest exoplanet to Earth is at a massive distance of 39.7 trillion kilometers. If we take the fastest spacecraft available, it would take 13,211 years to reach that planet.

Can we attain faster speeds?

Using the current technology, a Russian-American billionaire’s project hopes to find a solution to the speed problem. The plan is to create tiny nanocrafts that will travel past planets at 20% of the speed of light. Powerful laser blasts will be used to allow the nanocraft to reach the desired speed. Having said that, it’s just a theoretical concept so far.

Given the massive scale of space and its ever-expanding nature, space is too vast to illustrate in one single animation. When NASA communicates with a spacecraft, the communication is limited by the speed of light. This doesn’t allow “live” control of the spacecraft because the delay is far too much for precise movements. Therefore, commands must be pre-packaged and fed to the spacecraft in a timely fashion. Similarly, NASA’s InSight Mission automatically carried out its landing procedure because manual commands from Earth would take too long to reach InSight.

At first, it may seem daunting to believe that light, considered to be the fastest moving thing in the universe, is actually really slow. This puts a serious hamper on space-wide communication as it is not practical at all for communications to have delays of multiple hours or even days. If we look beyond our solar system, the Voyager probes are at massive distances and ultimately will fade into complete radio silence. As the universe expands, it is possible that many galaxies will go out of our reach unless a new travel method is developed.

One Reply to “A Scientist of NASA Proves that the Speed of Light is Extraordinarily Slow”

  1. speed of light is given incorrect there
    “its (m) there but actually it should be (km)”
    300000m/s is wrong
    its 300000km/s

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