Astrophysics (Index)About

speed of light

(c, light speed, speed of light in a vacuum, light's speed)
(fundamental constant measured as the speed at which light travels)

The speed of light (or light speed, or, more precisely, the speed of light in a vacuum, symbolized as c) is a fundamental constant measuring 299,792,458 meters per second, roughly 186,000 miles per second, and is the speed at which EMR is measured to travel through a vacuum. Due to this less-than-infinite speed, looking astronomical distances also is looking "backward in time".

Outside a vacuum, light moves slower than this, e.g., in liquid water, about 25% slower. Air has little effect, but glass (and fiber optics), for example, has the same order-of-magnitude reduction as water, and according to the science of optics, it this reduction that makes glass lenses function.

The speed of light (in a vacuum) always measures to the same quantity, even though light acts like waves. (This is unlike sound waves: if the medium in which the sound waves are traveling is also moving relative to you, the waves are traveling past you that much faster.) Relativity gave details of the manner in which the speed of light can be constant in this respect, and showed it to be more than merely the speed of EMR: it is the speed at which any influence occurs, especially including gravity, for example, being the speed of gravitational waves. Quantum mechanics appears to have effects that transcend it, but in very limiting contexts.


(physics,EMR)
Further reading:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_of_light

Referenced by pages:
aberration
astronomical quantities
black hole model
black-body radiation
broad-line region (BLR)
Brackett series
Cherenkov radiation
chirp mass (Mc)
Compton wavelength
cyclotron radiation
Doppler shift
ergosphere
escape velocity (Ve)
focal length
frequency
general relativity (GR)
Great Debate
gravitational-wave detector
gravitational wave spectrum
IceCube
inflation
innermost stable circular orbit (ISCO)
Jeans escape
jet
kinetic energy (KE)
kelvin (K)
light cone
Lorentz transformation
Lyman series (L)
mass
Maxwell's equations
Michelson interferometer
observable universe
OH/IR source
particle horizon
Paschen series
photon
Planck function
Planck units
pulsar timing array (PTA)
radiation pressure
Rayleigh-Jeans law
redshift (z)
relativistic energy
relativistic invariance
relativistic speed
relativity
rotation period
Schwarzschild radius
supernova (SN)
spacetime diagram
Starshot
Stefan-Boltzmann constant (σ)
superluminal motion
synchrotron radiation
Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect (SZ effect)
time standard
terrestrial time (TT)
wavenumber (ν)
Wien approximation

Index