The idea that a photon accelerates to light speed is a bit of a myth. Photons don’t accelerate to light speed. Instead, they are already traveling at the speed of light.
Photons are traveling at the speed of light since the moment they are created. This is difficult to understand as most objects that we can perceive have a resting speed of zero.
The difference for a photon comes down to what exactly a photon is and how much it weighs.
What is a photon?
The main reason for a photon constantly traveling at the speed of light is because of the type of object it is.
A photon is not a particle as most of us understand it. Instead, a photon is part particle and part wave. A photon is a quantum object.
How is a photon a wave?
When we imagine a wave, we usually imagine water. So let’s use that as an example. When you throw a stone into a pool of water, the waves begin to move immediately.
They do not begin to move slowly and then move quickly. The waves begin moving at the same speed they will move across the water.
This is how a photon moves. It is an object but it moves like a wave.
What is a photon made of?
Photons are made up of electromagnetic radiation. Photons are essentially electric fields that are moving through space.
Why is mass important?
At rest, a photon also has no mass. This sounds impossible. But it is because an object with no mass must never be at rest. Otherwise, it won’t exist.
This sounds complicated until you consider how light and darkness work. Remember, darkness is not an object itself. Darkness is only the absence of light.
Is a photon a quantum?
Yes. A photon is a quantum of light. Used in this context, a quantum is the minimum amount of energy of an entity. So, a photon is the smallest amount of light.
While people often hear the term “quantum physics” and believe it to be too complicated for them.
It is just the name given to the study of natural particles at atomic and subatomic levels.
Are photons visible to the human eye?
Kind of. Photons are visible to the human eye because humans are able to see light. The way human beings perceive light is due to being able to see photons.
Human beings are able to see when photons enter the eye. The eye then absorbs the photons by using either rod or cone cells.
If you’re wondering if the human eye can see individual photons, then the answer is “Maybe?”. Studies have shown that human eyes might have evolved to be sensitive enough to detect a single photon.
But, human beings might not be able to recognize when they see a single photon. Researchers have stated that seeing a single photon is closer to “a feeling of seeing something”. Rather than actually being able to pinpoint it.
So, you might be able to see a single photon. But you won’t be able to concentrate on it and be conscious that you are looking at and evaluating a single photon.
How can a photon have no mass?
This is also due to the fact that a photon is a wave. A wave transports momentum via its waving motion. This is instead of transporting an object with mass.
So, a photon does not have mass. Instead, it has momentum. This concept obeys E=pc. This is Energy (E) = momentum of magnitude (p) speed of light (c).
What is the speed of a photon?
So, if a photon is constantly moving at the speed of light, how fast is this? Some people memorize the speed of light.
But very few of us actually know how fast it is. It seems almost instantaneous. But, of course, it has to take a certain amount of time to reach our eyes.
In a vacuum, a photon moves at 186,282 miles per second.
What makes light travel so fast?
This is also due to the fact that photons have no mass and light is made up of photons.
We all know that the heavier something is, the slower it will go. So, as photons have no mass, they are the objects that travel fastest in the universe.
How long does it take for light to reach the Earth?
This is a really commonly asked question. Unless you have an interest in physics, you likely haven’t considered how quickly light moves.
It sort of just arrives, right? Not really. The light from the Sun takes around 8 minutes and 20 seconds to travel to the Earth.
This is because the Sun is around 93 million miles away from the Earth. But, this doesn’t mean the light we see from the sun is only 8 minutes and 20 seconds old. In fact, this light can be anywhere between 10,000 and 170,000 years old.
This is because the light the sun produces originates from its core. The light originates as energetic gamma rays and gradually works its way to the top. Then it escapes into space.
There is a lot to get your head around when it comes to quantum physics. Mostly because the nature of this kind of science requires us to imagine something that we (usually) cannot see.
We all understand that light allows us to see. We can also understand that light can move, such as in sun rays.
But, when it comes to understanding light as being made up of incredibly small objects, it gets a little more difficult.
We try to understand these concepts by comparing them to things we already understand, such as something moving by accelerating from a resting state. But, this isn’t always the case.
There are lots of fascinating things to learn about photons and how light works. But, the most important thing to remember in this case is that photons do not accelerate. They are moving from the moment they come into existence.