A 'ridiculous' yet simple animation by a NASA scientist shows how long it takes light to reach Pluto. If you plan to watch it, take a day off work.
- The speed of light is about 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second) in a vacuum.
- That can be tough to comprehend, so a scientist at NASA created several simple animations to demonstrate light's speed.
- His latest video - which he described as "ridiculous" -shows how long it takes light to go from the sun to Pluto in real time.
- You'd need most of your working hours to watch the entire movie.
The speed of light is not as fast as you might think.James O'Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, said he learned how to make animations only in the past few months. For practice and for fun, he created simple movies that show photons (particles of light) zipping around Earth, bouncing between our planet and the moon, and even traveling to Mars.
"My animations were made to show as instantly as possible the whole context of what I'm trying to convey," O'Donoghue previously told Business Insider. "When I revised for my exams, I used to draw complex concepts out by hand just to truly understand, so that's what I'm doing here."
The animations have been viewed millions of times.
In a perfectly empty vacuum, a photon can travel 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second), or about 670.6 million mph (1.079 billion kilometers per hour).
Earlier this week, O'Donoghue uploaded a video of photons leaving the sun and traveling all the way to Pluto, which is about 3 billion miles away.He described his new film as "quite ridiculous" in a message to Business Insider, since it lasts a whopping 5 hours, 28 minutes, and 20 seconds.
"The aim of my outreach is to simply to convey distances, sizes (scales) to people, and I think most people would be curious how far Pluto is," O'Donoghue tweeted on Thursday, adding: "If people don't like Pluto in this, they can put their finger over it."
Below is the full animation. You'd have to take a day off work or school to watch it in its entirety.
You can watch O'Donoghue's other (much shorter) light-speed animations here.