Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy

Installation gives insight into the experience of walking at the speed of light

19 December 2016

From 21 December, a scale replica of the Sun, the Earth, the Moon, Mercury and Venus will be displayed on the IJ Promenade, with the Earth and the Sun connected by a lighted LED path. This is the Speed of Light Project, designed to give people an idea of the distances in the universe. The University of Amsterdam contributed to the scientific content of the programme’s audio tour.

The Speed of Light Project is part of the fifth annual Amsterdam Light Festival. During the festival, the Amsterdam city centre will be lit up with artworks and installations by international artists, designers and architects. The Speed of Light Project, designed by light artist Caspar Noyons, lets visitors walk from the Earth to the Sun at the speed of light.

8 minute 20 seconds

The scale of the project is 1:270,000,000, making the distance between the Sun and the Earth 555 metres. At an average walking speed of 4 kilometres an hour, the journey along the lighted path takes 8 minutes and 20 seconds. That s precisely the same amount of time a light particle needs to reach the Earth from the Sun. So visitors are literally walking at the speed of light.

The Speed of Light Project lets you experience the vastness of the universe, comprehend our place in the Solar System and have an encounter with our own star, the Sun. The University of Amsterdam contributed to the scientific content of the programme’s audio tour. An educational programme connected to this project will get underway in January.

The Speed of Light Project is a joint production by the Amsterdam Light Festival, the CASPAR Foundation and the Tolhuistuin cultural centre. It was financed by VSBfonds, UvA Science Park, the Amsterdam Noord City District and 154 Kickstarter donors.

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Published by  Faculty of Science