September 7, 2015

What it looks like to fly through our solar system at the speed of light

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.


  1. Interesting video! When I first read the headline, "What it looks like to fly through the solar system at the speed of light," I thought, "Wow, that would be boring. It would take more than five hours just to get to Pluto."And that's the basic approach the video takes (though it only goes past Jupiter to keep the video length under an hour). What I then realized was that this doesn't take into account time dilation. If you were travelling at the speed of light (per impossible), time would be stopped from your perspective, so it would actually take no time at all from your perspective to zoom through the solar system. The video assumes a terrestrial frame of reference in terms of time. It also doesn't take account of the fact that no light would be able to reach you if you were travelling at the speed of light, so everything would be dark. A dark, single frame wouldn't be a very interesting video, though, so this is good for what it does--convey the fact that the speed of light isn't going to get you out of the solar system at magical speeds.

  2. Nor Mass Increase. Any object (photons excluded, which have no rest mass) going at the speed of light would attain to an infinite mass, and therefore an infinite gravitational pull, which would immediately collapse the entire universe into a single point. Sure am glad this video didn't cause that to happen. I've got a lot more evangelizing to do.