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Hard Science

A Trip from the Sun to Jupiter at the Speed of Light. Bring a Sandwich.

Watch what it might look like to travel from the sun to Jupiter at the speed of light.
If you lived here, you’d be home by now (ALPHONSE SWINEHEART)

Douglas Adams said it in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and he wasn’t wrong:

Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.

Alphonse Swineheart has made a video that shows what a “quick” trip from the sun to Jupiter would be like for a photon. It’s just a short hop: just 807 million kilometers, halfway across our solar system. By “quick,” we mean at the speed of light, the greatest speed at which many believe anything can travel.

One thing “quick” doesn’t mean here is “fast.” It takes:

  • 3:12 minutes to get to Mercury
  • 6:00 minutes to get to Venus
  • 8:18 minutes to get to Earth
  • 12:39 minutes to get to Mars
  • 43:16 minutes to get to Jupiter
  • Watch this in full screen if you can.

    When you consider that this is just making our way halfway across our own celestial neighborhood, you have to wonder how interstellar travel would be possible at all. Swineheart says he cheated a little by not considering how relativity might bend space and so on. Even so, traveling to other solar systems and galaxies would clearly require some means of getting from place to place we haven’t yet discovered. 

    The music is Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians,“ performed by Eighth Blackbird.


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