Science Fair Projects

Measuring the Speed of Light:To Jupiter and Beyond


The objective: My objective is to measure the distance to Jupiter in order to measure the speed of light.


I used parallax to find the distance to Jupiter at opposition, and then derived equations to calculate this distance at other times. I observed and recorded the times of numerous Io eclipses, and used these to find a time lag. By coupling the distance changes and the time lag, I calculated the speed of light. I used the telescope that I built as part of my project from last year, CalSky star maps and viewing predictions, a stopwatch, a clock, and recording materials (pen, paper, etc.).


Distance to Jupiter at opposition: 4.2 AU (4.4 AU actual)
Changes in Distance: 0.0486 AU (0.0482 AU actual)
Speed of Light: 383,000 km/sec (299,729 km/sec actual)


My parallax measurements yielded a result with about 5% error. However, errors in my estimated change of distance were smaller (about 1%). While these distances were fairly accurate, my overall speed of light estimate was very sensitive to small timing errors. The result was too high, almost 30% faster than the accepted value, and could easily have been off by much more. My procedure presents a valid approach, but is not necessarily the most practical method; extreme accuracy in observations is required to get good results. However, taking into consideration my homemade telescope and the needed precision, my project produced a surprisingly close estimate.

This project is about measuring the distance to Jupiter and timed Io's eclipses to estimate the speed of light.

Science Fair Project done By Skye Aaron


Related Projects : Liquid Light, Liquid Viscosity and Temperature , Study of the Wavelike Properties of Light, Ruben's Tube, The Whispering Gallery Effect, Catch a Wave: Choosing the Right Soundboard, Comparison of the Adhesion of Liquids on Regular Shapes, Stellar Parallax, The Greenhouse Effect, The Study of Alternating Magnetic Fields , Solar Tubes vs. Conventional Fluorescent, Measuring the Speed of Light


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