Light Speed Is Relatively Slow

We usually think of light as being extremely fast because it is the fastest thing we have been able to observe so far. The physics of relativity theory by Einstein suggests to us that the speed of light is an absolute limit built into the fabric of space and time as we observe it.

This animation shows how long it takes at light speed to move across our inner Solar System and serves to dramatize how large and how empty space is. Moving at a fraction of light speed would take longer and make it seem even larger and more empty.

Riding Light

– [vimeo.com]

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.

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