PanamaTimes

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Here's why astronauts age slower than the rest of us here on Earth

Here's why astronauts age slower than the rest of us here on Earth

The next time you find yourself wishing the weekend would last longer, stay low to the ground and move really fast.

Time feels like one of the only constants in life — it passes day after day at the same pace.

Then Albert Einstein had to go and ruin that for us.

We've all heard the phrase that "time is relative," but it can be difficult to wrap the mind around what that actually means.

The phrase came from Einstein's Theory of Relativity that joined space and time and created the idea of a fabric that permeates the whole universe: "space-time."

We all measure our experience in space-time differently. That's because space-time isn't flat — it's curved, and it can be warped by matter and energy.

So depending on our position and speed, time can appear to move faster or slower to us relative to others in a different part of space-time. And for astronauts on the International Space Station, that means they get to age just a tiny bit slower than people on Earth. 

That's because of time-dilation effects. First, time appears to move slower near massive objects because the object's gravitational force bends space-time.



The phenomenon is called "gravitational time dilation." In a nutshell it just means time moves slower as gravity increases.

That's why time passes slower for objects closer to the center of the Earth where the gravity is stronger.

That doesn't mean you could spend your life in a basement, just to outlive the rest of us here on the surface. The effect isn't noticeable on such a small scale. If you became a basement hermit, then across your entire lifetime you'd only age a fraction of a second slower than everyone else above ground.

But this concept gets pretty crazy when you start thinking about it:

 *  A watch strapped to your ankle will eventually fall behind one strapped to your wrist.

*  Your head technically ages more quickly than your feet.

*  Time passes faster for people living on a mountain than those living at sea level.

Time gets even weirder though.

The second factor is something called "relative velocity time dilation" where time moves slower as you move faster.

The classic example of this is the twin scenario. One twin blasts off in a spaceship traveling close to the speed of light, and one twin stays behind on Earth. When the space-traveling twin returns to Earth, she's only aged a couple years, but she's shocked to find that her Earth-bound sister has aged over a decade.

Of course no one has performed that experiment in real life, but there's evidence that it's real. When scientists launched an atomic clock into orbit and back — while keeping an identical clock here on Earth — it returned running ever so slightly behind the Earth-bound clock.

Then time gets even more complicated because gravitational time dilation and relative velocity time dilation can happen at the same time. A good way to think about it is to consider the astronauts living on the International Space Station.

Currently, an international crew of seven live and work aboard the ISS, orbiting Earth about every 90 minutes, according to NASA.

They're floating about 260 miles above, where Earth's gravitational pull is weaker than it is at the surface. That means time should speed up for them relative to people on the ground. But the space station is also whizzing around Earth at about nearly five miles per second.

That means time should also slow down for the astronauts relative to people on the surface.

You'd think that might even out, but actually their velocity time dilation has a bigger effect than their gravitational time dilation, so astronauts end up aging slower than people on Earth.

The difference isn't noticeable though — after spending six months on the ISS, astronauts have aged about 0.005 seconds less than the rest of us.

That means that when former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly returned home in 2016 from his history-making, year-long stay on the ISS, he technically was 0.01 second younger than his twin astronaut brother — and now US senator — Mark Kelly who stayed on Earth.

So the next time you find yourself wishing the weekend would last longer, stay low to the ground and move really fast. It won't feel like your weekend got any longer, but technically you may gain a teeny, tiny fraction of a fraction of a second.

Remember, time is relative.

Newsletter

Related Articles

PanamaTimes
0:00
0:00
Close
El Salvador's Bitcoin Holdings Reach $350 Million
Teens Forming Friendships with AI Chatbots
WhatsApp Rolls Out Major Redesign
Neuralink's First Brain Implant Experiences Issue
Apple Unveils New iPad Pro with M4 Chip, Misleading AI Claims
OpenAI to Announce Google Search Competitor
Apple Apologizes for Controversial iPad Pro Ad Featuring Instrument Destruction
German politician of the AFD party, Marie-Thérèse Kaiser was just convicted & fined $6,000+
Changpeng Zhao Sentenced to Four Months in Jail
Biden Administration to Relax Marijuana Regulations
101-Year-Old Woman Mistaken for a Baby by American Airlines: Comical Mix-Up during Flight Check-in
King Charles and Camilla enjoying the Inuit voice singing performance in Canada.
New Study: Vaping May Lower Fertility in Women Trying to Get Pregnant
U.S. DOJ Seeks Three-Year Sentence for Binance Founder Changpeng Zhao
Headlines - Thursday, 23 April 2024
Illinois Woman Wins $45M Lawsuit Against Johnson & Johnson and Kenvue for Mesothelioma Linked to Baby Powder
Panama's lates news for Friday, April 19
Creative menu of a Pizza restaurant..
You can be a very successful player, but a player with character is another level!
Experience the Future of Dining: My Visit to an AI-Powered Burger Joint
Stabbing rampage terror attack in Sydney, at least four people killed, early reports that a baby was among those stabbed.
Iran fired more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel overnight. Israel Reports Light Damage After Iran Launches Large Strike.
I will never get enough of his videos and the pure joy and beauty of these women!!
Scientists at the University of Maryland have developed an "invisibility cloak", for AI using adversarial patterns on a sweater, making the wearer nearly undetectable to standard object detection methods.
Lamborghini Bids Farewell to Its Best-Selling Sports Car: The Huracán
Sam Bankman-Fried Appeals 25-Year Prison Sentence for $8bn FTX Fraud
OJ Simpson, ex-NFL star who was acquitted of murder, dies aged 76
British Backpacker Imprisoned in Notorious Bolivian Prison: Family Raises Funds for Legal Fight and Essentials
Argentina: Venezuela Cuts Power to Embassy after Opposition Meeting
El Salvador Offers 5,000 Passports to Skilled Foreign Workers: Tax-Free Relocation and Citizenship
Panama Papers Trial Begins: Founders of Mossack Fonseca Face Money-Laundering Charges
75 Becomes the New 65: Retiring in Your 60s Unrealistic as Life Expectancy Increases and Costs Rise
Total Solar Eclipse of 2021: 32 Million Witness the Mystical, $1.5bn Spectacle Sweep Across North America
New shopping experience…
New world, new reality, let’s get used to it
UK Company Passes Milestone in Developing Space-Based Solar Power, Aiming to Power a Million Homes and Provide Constant Energy
Mexico Breaks Diplomatic Ties with Ecuador after Police Storm Embassy, Arrest Former Vice President
Monty Python were so ahead of their time
If there's a will, there's a way!
Rules about how to dress are important, but not so much if you have a lot of money.
Body Armor Firm Showcases Stab-Proof Vest in Demo on CEO
Mexico Cuts Diplomatic Ties with Ecuador After Embassy Stormed in Quito
Here is a tattoo idea, for engineers
Zoraya Ter Beek, a 28-year-old woman from the Netherlands, will undergo euthanasia in May due to severe mental health challenges
Here's a video featuring Fidel Castro, where he discusses his stance against war and his commitment to preserving life, positions that have put him at odds with the USA:
Woman reaches behind and steals gun from a security guard and shoots three people while getting detained in Chile
Take a walk around the safe and thriving downtown San Salvador.
Joe Biden criticised by Trump campaign for declaring Transgender Day of Visibility on Easter Sunday
Macron says France will help Brazil develop nuclear-powered submarines
A video demonstrating women's self defense class in 1930
×