This Is What Light Looks like at 100,000,000,000 Frames per Second

If you've been reading Fstoppers, then surely you have already seen your fair share of high-speed videos. With the iPhone 6 now shooting glorious 240fps HD footage, you will undoubtedly be seeing a whole lot more of it, too. High-speed photography isn't just for making explosions or slapping your friend in the face look awesome, it also has many scientific uses. One such development now underway is the ability to capture light in motion. Really.

High-Speed History

High-speed photography is nothing new. In 1878, a photographer by the name of Eadweard Muybridge was hired by Leland Standford to settle a bar bet as to whether or not a galloping horse ever had all four hooves off the ground. What Muybridge did was set up a series of 24 cameras, 27 inches apart, with the shutter speed at 1000th of a second, and had the cameras triggered by a cable as the horse galloped past. The result showed that there was in fact a moment where the horse was completely off the ground, but more importantly it showed that when you take a series of photographs in quick succession you can actually capture movement. In 1880, Muybridge projected his motion pictures to an astonished crowd at the California School of Fine Arts which led him to meet the inventor Thomas Edison, who later invented the Kinetoscope.

"The Horse In Motion" - The first high speed camera frames.

100,000,000,000 Frames Per Second

Today, we have long since surpassed Muybridge and his 24 frames per second. Recently, a team of researchers lead by Lihong V Wang have developed a camera system that effectively captures 100 billion frames per second. At these speeds you can actually see light in motion. In a statement, Wang said, "It's our hope that CUP will enable new discoveries in science—ones that we can't even anticipate yet... Combine CUP imaging with the Hubble Telescope, and we will have both the sharpest spatial resolution of the Hubble and the highest temporal solution with CUP. That combination is bound to discover new science."

High-speed camera (digital micrometer device)

[via Gizmodo, Motherboard, EurekaAlert]

Adam McKay's picture

Adam J McKay is a Photographer and Cinematographer currently based in Timmins, Ontario Canada.

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This is pretty amazing stuff. I wonder what doors of understanding it will open.

Doing the arithmetic and looking at the rather short video, I'm a bit confused. In one frame's duration, light will move 2.99 meters. So what's the scale of what is being photographed? if it's much less than several meters then I think the frame rate is faster by about a factor of 100 (If centimeters is the scale).

I do not think it is one photon they are capturing .... each frame is timeshifted different mine opinion