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Here’s What the Speed of Light Looks Like in Real Time

October 13, 2019

Below we will share the impressions made and the deep thoughts provoked as the above GIF progressed to greater and greater distances. 

Orbiting Earth

The first part shows a beam of light orbiting the Earth. It makes the trip 7.5 times every second. The depiction challenges the notion we all have that the “speed of light” is basically instantaneous. It’s still very, very fast, but this allows you to quantify the speed. 

Earth to Moon

For light, the distance between the Earth and the Moon is relatively quick, a 2.5 second round-trip journey that looks like a very boring game of Pong.

Earth to Mars

The next section, which shows light traversing between Earth and Mars, doesn’t seem to comment on the speed of light as much as it reveals the astounding distance between us and the Red Planet.

Suddenly, you realize the audacity of a manned mission to Mars and how terrifyingly far away from home those explorers will be. 

Sun to Earth

Last, we see how long it takes for light to pass through our neck of the Solar System. The speed of light seems agonizingly slow, and space absurdly big.

It takes 3 minutes to get to Mercury; 6 minutes to get to Venus; and 8 minutes 17 seconds to reach Earth. Probably a minute or two later it reaches Minnesota.

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