The speed of light is the fastest that any material object can travel through space. The speed of light in the vacuum is 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second). Undoubtedly, this is incredibly fast, but it is frustratingly slow during communication with other planets (beyond our solar system).
To describe the speed limit of the cosmos in a way that anyone could understand, James O & # 39; Donoghue, a planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, took the initiative to cheer him on.
Their efforts look at three different speed-of-light scenarios to express how fast (and painfully slow) photons can be.
Your first animation shows how light moves quickly to Earth.
The Earth has 24,901 miles around in its center. If our world had no atmosphere (air refracts and dims slightly), a photon sliding along its surface could cover the equator almost 7.5 times per second.
In this animation, the speed of light seems to be quite fast, however, the film also demonstrates how finite it is.
In his second animation, he covers the distance from Earth to the Moon.
The average distance between Earth and Moon is 238,855 miles (384,400 kilometers). That is, all the light from the moon that appears is 1,255 seconds and the return of the Moon Earth at the speed of light takes about 2.51 seconds.
This time, he suggests, is growing every day as the moon moves away from Earth at a rate of about 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) a year.
The third light-speed animation of O & # 39; Donoghue describes the challenge that many astronomers used to manage daily.
When NASA tries to communicate with spacecraft, like the InSight probe on Mars, it can only do so at the speed of light. This is too slow to operate a spacecraft in "live mode" as if it were a remote control car. Thus, the commands must be carefully thought out, prepackaged and directed to the precise location in the space at the precise moment so that they do not miss the target.
When the 60-second clip appears, the light takes 3 minutes and 2 seconds to go between Earth and Mars at the nearest approach. It's 6 minutes and 4 seconds for a high-speed round trip.
It means that the finite speed of light is depressing when communicating with spacecraft like New Horizons, Voyager1 and 2. It suggests that it gets more frustrating when it comes to getting out of the solar system.
However, the space is incredibly vast. Its observable edge begins about 45.34 billion light-years away in any direction (and 13.77 billion years in the past), which is too large to illustrate in a simple animation.
Donoghue said he only recently learned how to create these animations – the first of which was for a NASA press release on Saturn's flight rings. After that, he began to animate other hard-to-understand space concepts, including a video that illustrates the velocities and rotation sizes of the planets. He said a "racked up millions of views" when he posted to Twitter.