Space

NASA scientist shows the disappearing rings of Saturn, the size of the planets and the movement of light to Mars using gifs in social networks

Visual and simple animations for not so simple things.

James O'Donoghue
James O’Donoghue

James O’Donoghue is a planetary scientist at the NASA Space Flight Center. In 2014, he received a doctorate in physics from the University of Leicester, and three years later began working for the space agency. Most of his life O’Donoghue devoted to the study of the planets of the solar system. And for several months now he has been sharing knowledge with the help of visual gifs that are becoming popular on social networks and on Reddit .

The scientist told the publication Business Insider, that until “recently” did not know how to work with animations. For the first time, O’Donoghue made a gif in December 2018 for a NASA press release on Saturn’s disappearing rings. The planetologist studied them for more than five years, and showed that after 100 million years, the rings of the planet could disappear almost completely. Animation on the “rewind”, he posted on Twitter.


In the next gif, O’Donoghue showed how long a day lasts on all the planets in the solar system.


Another work of the scientist is also devoted to the objects of the Solar system – this time comparing their sizes. “My animations are made to convey the context of what I want to explain as quickly as possible. When I was preparing for exams, I drew all the complex concepts by hand, just to understand, ”noted O’Donoghue


In January 2019, the planetologist took up the explanation of the speed of light. In space, it reaches 299,792 kilometers per second. For a start, the scientist showed the speed of light relative to the Earth: a photon could fly around the planet at the equator 7.5 times in a second.


To overcome the distance from the Earth’s surface to the Moon’s surface, light takes 1.255 seconds. O’Donoghue demonstrated this in real time

After that, the planetologist decided to show subscribers the movement of light from the Earth to Mars. The problem is that in this case the speed of light seems extremely slow: a photon travels from one planet to another in 3 minutes and 2 seconds. Scientists regularly encounter this in real life. For example, when interacting with the InSight probe: employees have to carefully work out all the teams due to the low speed of communication.

O’Donoghue had to publish a video on YouTube, because such long videos could not be uploaded to Twitter

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