Neil deGrasse Tyson explains how gravity affects the flow of time

By David Ferguson
Thursday, September 19, 2013 10:10 EDT
google plus icon
Neil deGrasse Tyson (Screenshot)
  • Print Friendly and PDF
  • Email this page

On Wednesday’s edition of his popular “Star Talk” radio show, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explained how gravity affects the flow of time and how time passes on different planets with different gravitational fields.

A listener wrote in to “Star Talk” to ask if it’s the same time everywhere in the universe. Space flights and the International Space Station are all on Houston time because “that’s who they talk to,” but, the reader asked, does time move at the same rate everywhere?

“Different parts of the universe are moving at different rates,” deGrasse Tyson said, “and time has some relative aspects to it. For example, the GPS satellites, the clocks on them tick at a different rate than clocks on Earth’s surface because when you move far away from the source of gravity, your time speeds up.”

“So,” he continued, “the clocks on the GPS satellites are not ticking at the rate of the clocks that they are informing down here on Earth. The military puts a correction into the clock time of a GPS satellite so that it matches the time we need it to have here on the Earth’s surface.

Therefore, depending on where you are in relation to a gravitational force, your clock is ticking slightly differently than those located closer to the source.

Co-host Eugene Mirman then asked, “Okay, so what time is it on Jupiter?”

An interesting way to answer that question, said deGrasse Tyson, would be to place a clock on Earth and the other on Jupiter and take note of how fast they tick.

“The clock on Jupiter,” said deGrasse Tyson, “will tick slower because Jupiter’s gravitational field slows down the ticking of the clock.”

The change is so small, however, that if you had a hypothetical 100 years to live, going to Jupiter would only increase your lifespan by about 10 minutes — an addition that seems hardly worth the trip.

Watch the video, embedded below via Star Talk Radio:

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
By commenting, you agree to our terms of service
and to abide by our commenting policy.