The time it takes for a single particle of light to pass through a hydrogen molecule is now the shortest duration ever measured.
This interval was about 247 zeptoseconds, or trillionths of a billionth of a second, researchers report in the Oct. 16 Science. For comparison, there are as many zeptoseconds in one second as there are seconds in 2,500 times the age of the universe, which is about 13.8 billion years old. The new observation has allowed physicists to witness light-matter interactions at a whole new level of detail.
The physicists shined particles of X-ray light on hydrogen molecules in a gas. As each light particle, or photon, crossed an H2 molecule, it booted an electron from one hydrogen atom, then the other. Because electrons can exhibit wavelike behavior (SN: 5/3/19), the two ejection events stirred up electron waves that spread out and merged —