SpeedHeader SPEED SpeedHeader


Ever wondered what the fastest speed that you have ever traveled is?

Perhaps you have been in a car travelling at 180 km/h (50 m/s)?
Perhaps in a commercial airliner at 900 km/h (250m/s)?

Well. believe it or not, these speeds are meaningless in comparison to the speed
that you are travelling right now.

Consider for a moment how speed is measured. Science does not have any means of measuring absolute speed.
We measure speed by comparing the difference in speed between two objects
Typically one is the moving object and the other is the point of reference.

The car's speed is measured relative to the road beneath it.
But what if you were not travelling on a road, but across the deck of a seagoing aircraft carrier?
You may be driving at 100km/h relative to the deck.
But if the aircraft carrier is travelling through the water at 50km/h in the same direction as you,
then in relation  to the ocean, you are in fact travelling at 150 km/h.





So back to the question
How fast are you travelling right now while sitting in your seat?

There are many answers to that question.
All correct and all more surprising than the next.

Firstly, consider the rotation of the Earth.
At the equator the Earth has a circumference of 40 075 km.
We travel that distance every 24 hours thanks to the daily rotation of the Earth.
We are therefore, due to the Earth's rotation around it's own axis, travelling at 1600 km/h (444 m/s).
(At the equator, lessening as we approach the poles.)

But that is just the beginning.
The Earth is of course moving around the sun as well.
Being about 150 million km from the Sun, we travel around it in an orbital path measuring 970 million km.
This annual journey takes us 365 days which means that our travel around the Sun
moves us through space at a tidy 107 000km/h (29 722 m/s).

Still this is small in comparison to what is to come.
Our Sun travels around the Milky Way galaxy, dragging us along with it.
It takes our Sun approximately 225 million years to complete one rotation around our spiral galaxy.
Since the Sun and Earth were first formed, they have completed this journey 20 times.
Therefore, in moving around our Milky Way galaxy we are travelling at an astounding
speed of 792 000 km/h (220 000 m/s).

But still there is more.
The Milky Way galaxy is travelling on its own path around the universe.
The question is what do we use as a point of reference to determine our speed.
If the Milky Way is the car then what is the road.
Since all the galaxies in the universe are moving, we have no stationary point to compare to.
The answer is the Cosmic Background Radiation discovered by Nobel prize(1978) winning Astrophysicists,
Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of Bell Laboratories.
Cosmic Background Radiation is the universal remnant of the Big Bang which created the universe.
Knowing this we can calculate that we are travelling around the universe
at a mind blowing 2.1 million km/h (583 333 m/s or 583 km/s)!
Travelling at this speed on Earth would get you from Cape Town to Johannesburg in only 3 seconds.




Fact is certainly stranger than fiction.
In the time it has taken you to read this page
you have traveled over 35 000 km across the universe!




Still, all this is slow in comparison to the universal speed limit, which is the speed of light.
Should you manage to do the impossible and reach the speed of light,
you would be travelling at 1.1 billion km/h - 1 100 000 000 km/h
(305 555 000 m/s or 305 555 km/s).

Doing this speed you would travel around the Equator 7.6 times in only one second!
Consider that, even travelling at this speed, it would take us 4.35 years
to reach our nearest neighboring star, Proxima Centauri