Why do we see the flash from a gun before we hear noise?

Have you ever tried to fire a gun? If yes, what did you notice after doing so? There are several things you can observe when firing a gun, and that includes the gun’s flash and sound. It may be a popular question for some people since it is apparent that the gun’s flash comes first, then the noise.

It is just like watching a firework display at the night sky. You will see different fireworks lighting up the sky with various colors. However, you would notice that the fireworks flash even before you hear the sound.

The same thing goes with firing a gun. It was a popular trivia, especially to kids, and in this article, we are going to look into the reason further why do we see the flash from a gun before we hear the noise?

What will you notice when you fire a gun?

If you fire a gun, it will release a powerful sound, as well as a flash the moment that propellant gases escape the end of the bullet – which creates a muzzle flash. This flash is what we see coming out of the gun, especially at night. However, when you see the flash, you would notice that it takes a couple of seconds before you can hear the sound, which is more noticeable when you are in a farther distance.

In this case, the flash and the sound took off at the same time, but the main reason behind why the flash came first, then the sound is because light travels faster than sound. The duration before we hear the sound varies from our distance from the gun.

A simple explanation for this phenomenon is both light and sound are composed of waves. Sound waves carry the gun sound through the air to our ears. Since it is in the form of a wave, it would take time for it to travel from one place to another.

Like what we learned in school, sound waves are significantly slower compared to light waves. Light travels 299,792,458 meters per second, while sound, on the other hand, travels for only 330 meters per second. These numbers are evident to prove that the speed of light is significantly faster than sound; that is why we can see the gun flash even before we hear its sound.

Regardless of our distance from the gunfire, we will always see its flash of light in just a few milliseconds. However, if we are far from the gunfire, you will hear its sound for nearly half a minute.

More About the Speed of Light

Since we already know the reason behind the gun flash and noise, let us look into some other information about the speed of light.

Scientifically, light is electromagnetic radiation within the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to the human eye. Light is one of the essential parts of our lives. It has several uses and living in a world without it is unimaginable.

As mentioned earlier, light travels at a significant speed of 299,792,458 meters per second or roughly 186,000 miles per second. That is why, in theory, the speed of light is the fastest, and nothing can travel faster than light. A fun fact regarding this exceptional speed is if an object can travel in the speed of light without breaking down into atoms, it could go around the Earth seven and a half times in one second.

The distance light could travel in one whole year is called a light-year. Scientists and astronomers use light-year as a unit of measurement for measuring the distance between planets and other heavenly bodies. An excellent example is our moon. Its light travels from the moon to our eyes in just one second; thus, the distance from the moon to Earth is one light-second. The same goes with other heavenly bodies, mainly our sun, which takes eight minutes for its light to reach Earth.

With all of these examples, it is pretty much evident how the speed of light is significantly faster than the speed of sound. Regardless of the distance and any other factors, it is apparent that nothing travels faster than light. So the next time you see gunfire, you would already know the scientific reason why its flash came first, then the sound.

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