Thursday, May 27, 2021

A fantastic trip

The longest non-stop commercial flight currently active is the line connecting Newark (in the United States) to Singapore. The flight between the two cities, separated by a distance of over 15300 km, has a duration of 18 hours and 45 minutes.

But suppose now we leave Newark and do not want to stop in Singapore, but totally circumnavigate the Earth until we return to the starting point without ever stopping. Let's also assume you're flying at a constant speed on a Boeing 747, which has a top speed of just under 1000 km/h. Knowing the diameter of the Earth we can derive its circumference; dividing the latter by the speed of the plane we can thus find the total duration of the flight. It turns out that a flight around the Earth would have a duration of about 44 hours!

Now let's imagine moving inside the Solar System and with our Boeing 747 entering orbit around Jupiter. Of course this is unrealistic, but by reasoning in a similar way to what we did with the Earth we could also derive in this case the time it would take to circumnavigate Jupiter. The duration of the flight around the gas giant would be 19 days!

Let's think even bigger and let's move in orbit around the Sun. Assuming we can fly in orbit around it without being burned, it would take us 6 months to circumnavigate it without ever stopping!

Assuming instead that the Sun has a solid surface and imagining that we travel by car on it at a constant speed of 100 km/h, we would find that the total duration of the journey would be 5 years!

Credit: Sean Doran.


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