This is Earth! Space is a very big place, and since I own most of it, I thought it would be a neat exercise to figure out just how big it is.

Since the dimensions of our Universe are so big that even *I* have trouble comprehending them, I scaled everything down to a distance that we can relate to.

I live in Gainesville, Florida and the nearest metropolitan area to us is Ocala, Florida. Ocala is approximately 30 miles from the southernmost point in Gainesville. Since this is a distance I can visualize, I used 30 miles as my new definition of a light year.

As you probably know, a Light Year is the distance light can travel in one year. In this new scale, it would take light a year to travel a distance of 30 miles. Yes, that would screw up physics in the Universe tremendously and just walking to the kitchen would cause you to suffer severe relativistic effects. However, for this mental experiment we'll suspend all that.

So before we begin, let's keep this in mind.

  1. The Speed of Light = 186,282 miles per second
  2. In 1 Year, Light travels 5.87 trillion miles

So, by converting 5.87 trillion miles into a 30 mile span, I was able to calculate the following:

  1. The time it would take light to travel everyday distances if it took light a full year to travel 30 miles.
  2. The space between the planets and stars if those distances were scaled down to match the new definition of a light year.

After doing this, you get a really good picture of how big the space between everything in the Universe really is. Well, at least as far as "local" stuff is concerned. Local meaning within 100 light years of Earth.

On this scale, 1 inch represents 2.79 million miles.

Keeping that in mind, did you know that:

  1. It would take 15 seconds for light to travel an inch (the width of a US quarter).
  2. It would take 6.25 days for the Space Shuttle to travel the width of a US quarter (18,628 miles per hour)
  3. It would take 5.31 years for a car to travel the width of a US quarter (60 miles per hour)

So, let's have a little fun, shall we?

How long would it take to get from one city to another if 30 miles = 1 light year?
Destination Distance traveled Duration of trip at the scaled down Speed of Light
Gainesville to Ocala 30 miles 1 year
Gainesville to Orlando 120 miles 4 years
Gainesville to Miami 330 miles 11 years
Gainesville to Washington, DC. 776.6 miles 25.9 years
Gainesville to Denver, CO. 1730.5 miles 57.7 years
Gainesville to Seattle, WA. 2998.8 miles 99.9 years

If we scaled down intragalactic distances to match this...
Where do you want to go? Distance traveled Duration of trip at the scaled down Speed of Light
Earth to the Moon 14 hundredths of an inch 2 seconds
2.79 million miles 1 inch 15 seconds
Sun to Mercury 12.9 inches 3.2 minutes
Sun to Venus 23.9 inches 5.9 minutes
Sun to Earth 33 inches 8 minutes
Sun to Mars 4.2 feet 12.5 minutes
Sun to Jupiter 14.3 feet 42.9 minutes
Sun to Saturn 26.2 feet 1.31 hours
Sun to Uranus 52.7 feet 2.64 hours
Sun to Neptune 82.6 feet 4.13 hours
Sun to Pluto 108.1 feet 5.5 hours
Diameter of the Solar System 220.7 feet 11 hours
Sun to Alpha Centauri 120 miles 4 years
Diameter of the Milky Way Galaxy 4.35 million miles 145,000 years

What if I could travel at the speed of light in this scale, how long would it take for me to go from point A to point B?
What is our goal? Distance traveled Duration of trip at the scaled down Speed of Light
To travel the width of a US quarter 1 inch 15 seconds
To travel the width of a medium pizza 1 foot 3 minutes
To walk the length of my car 16 feet 51 minutes
To walk from my sofa to to the dining room table 20 feet 1 hour
To cross the UF Campus 2 miles 24 days
To drive to work 7 miles 2.8 months
To drive to the Oaks Mall from Downtown 8.2 miles 3.3 months

Traveling at Star Trek velocities
Mars! Ok Star Trek fans, think about this:

According to page 54 of the Star Trek Technical Manual:

  • Warp 1 = Speed of light
  • Warp 2 = 10 times the speed of light
  • Warp 4 = 100 times the speed of light
  • Warp 8 = 1000 times the speed of light

Unfortunately, the Universe is SO big that as far as travel times go, Warp 8 is still painfully slow.

So, considering our new scaled down universe where it takes light 1 year to travel 30 miles, Warp 8 would not only seem pokey, but agonizingly slow.

Yes brothers and sisters, Warp 8 would be the equivalent of 3.42 miles per hour in normal everyday speeds. Imagine having to drive around town at 3.42 miles per hour! No wonder it's taking Voyager so long to get back to the Alpha Quadrant.

For more information about the Warp Factor - Lightspeed Conversion, visit Martin Shields' Website. He's written a program that will actually do these conversions for you, and he shows the formulae he derived to obtain the values.

Here's what our travel times would look like at various warp speeds:

What if 1 Light Year = 30 miles and we could travel at Star Trek velocities?
Destination Travel time at Warp 2 Travel time at Warp 4 Travel time at Warp 8
Gainesville to Ocala 36.5 days 3.65 days 8.76 hours
Gainesville to Orlando 146.1 days 14.6 days 35 hours
Gainesville to Miami 14 months 40 days 4 days
Gainesville to Washington, DC. 2.6 years 3.2 months 9.5 days
Gainesville to Denver, CO. 5.8 years 7 months 21.1 days
Gainesville to Seattle, WA. 9.9 years 1 year 36.5 days
Intragalactic destinations?
Destination Travel time at Warp 2 Travel time at Warp 4 Travel time at Warp 8
Earth to Mars 1 minute, 15 seconds 7.2 seconds 72 hundreths of a second
Earth to Pluto 33 minutes 3 minutes, 20 seconds 19.8 seconds
Earth to Alpha Centauri 146.1 days 14.6 days 35 hours
Earth to Sirius 10.6 months 31.8 days 3.2 days
Earth to Vega 2.6 years 94.9 days 9.5 days
Earth to Aldebaran 6.4 years 7.8 months 23.4 days
Earth to Betelgeuse (Beta Orionis). 65 years 6.5 years 7.9 months
Earth to Rigel (Alpha Orionis) 85 years 8.5 years 10.3 months
Earth to Delta Quadrant 7500 years 750 years 75 years

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Page created: February 18th, 2001
Last updated: December 13th, 2001