Traveling Light Speed

- 26 May 2017

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How fast have you traveled? Were you in a car or an airplane? How long would it take to travel to the moon if you flew as fast as the speed of light? Read on to learn more about traveling at the speed of light.

Scientists have spent decades trying to travel the fastest speed imaginable. A land speed record set in 1997 set the record for traveling mach 1 over a distance of 1 mile. How fast is Mach 1? Mach 1 is reached at 1,227.985 km/h (763.035 mi/h). The fastest airplane, the X-15, still holds the official world record for the fastest speed ever reached by a manned aircraft: Mach 6.72, which is 6.72 times the speed of sound, or 4,520 mph (7,274 km/h).

The Speed of Light

Who came up with the idea “Speed of Light”? In 1676 Danish astronomer Ole Romer noted variations in the eclipse times of one of Jupiter’s moons over the course of a year. Prior to this observation scientists believed that light did not have a speed. They believed it just appeared instantaneously. Romer theorized that it took light longer to travel and calculated that light traveled at the speed of 200,000 kilometers per second.

A physicist named James Clerk Maxwell studied Romer’s theory and introduced equations that measured electric and magnetic fields in vacuum. He concluded based on his observations that light was an electromagnetic wave.

Albert Einstein

In 1905 Albert Einstein agreed with Maxwell’s conclusion and used it in his theory of special relativity. Distance and the observer do not impact the speed of light, noted as c. The speed of light is constant and independent of the observer. He measures the speed at 186,000 miles per second or 300 million meters per second.

Speed of Light Fun Facts:

  • If traveling to Earth’s moon by the speed of light you would arrive in 1.28 seconds.
  • When traveling to Mars, you would arrive at about 1.36 minutes.
  • Want to go to Saturn? You would arrive in 1.18 hours.
  • Traveling to Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the sun, you will want to pack a toothbrush and some clothes. That trip will take 4.3 years.
  • How old are you right now? Add almost 14 years to that. What age will you be? That is how long it will take you to reach WOLF 1061C, the closest potentially habitable planet.
  • If you boarded a rocket ship that traveled at the speed of light and wanted to reach the center of the Milky Way galaxy it would take approximately 33,000 years

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The Difference Between Light Speed and Light Year

What is the difference between light speed and a light year? A light year is the distance between two points in space that it would take light to travel when the distance between the points in time are one year. If you were to travel back and forth across the United States 66 times you will have traveled 186,000 miles. The closest star to us is about 4 light years away. This means that it is 23,462,784,000,000 miles away.

The next time you travel by car figure out how fast you are going in seconds. If you travel 60 miles per hour you can figure out the seconds. Traveling the speed of light, although impossible, would certainly give us answers to what lies beyond our galaxy. 

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