The vastness of our solar system in a video at the speed of light

I recently started playing Elite: Dangerous as I’ve always been a fan of the concept of FTL space travel that humans can do and still be aware of without experiencing infinite mass or time appearing to stand still. I’ve spent hours on some weekends just jumping around from solar system to solar system exploring the vastness of space and it still taking forever to get anywhere, even going at 30x the speed of light.

While randomly stumbling around the internet I came across this video which is a great way of showing the vastness of space to someone (who understands how fast light travels). Even going at the speed of light, our own solar system feels huge.

Now you need to ignore relativity here and imagine this is an object able to travel at the speed of light and record while taking it from the perspective of a stationary observer – based on our current understanding of travelling at that speed. Other than that, it’s amazing how slow it feels.

If you just want to see earth, jump to 8 minutes in.

Riding Light from Alphonse Swinehart on Vimeo.

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 sun and traveling across a portion of the solar system.

I've taken liberties with certain things like the alignment of planets and asteroids, but overall I've kept the size and distances of all the objects as accurate as possible. I also decided to end the animation just past Jupiter as I wanted to keep the running length below an hour.

Music: Steve Reich "Music for 18 Musicians"
Performed by: Eighth Blackbird



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