Most recent addition: 17 January 2017.
Many conventional terms confound “velocity” and “speed”, for example “escape velocity”. As a practical matter that confusion has forced us to do the same in this entry. But remember that a measurement of velocity includes a direction, while a measurement of speed does not.
yoctometers per second
zeptometers per second
attometers per second
femtometers per second
picometers per second
nanometers per second
|1.2||Rate at which Moon is withdrawing from Earth.|
|1.4||Estimated highest rate at which land is rising anywhere in Iceland in
2014. Largely caused by loss of mass as glaciers
Kathleen Compton, Richard A. Bennett and Sigrún Hreinsdóttir.
|90 - 235||Rate at which a rabies virus infection moves along a nerve.|
|633 – 3010||Range of speeds of Alaskan tidewater glaciers.
M. F. Meier and A. Post.
micrometers per second
|6.3 - 9.5||
Speed with which various tree species spread north following the end
of the last North American glaciation.
Margaret B. Davis.
|158.44||Speed with which Earth's south magnetic pole was moving in 2007. It
was moving northwest.
Nils Olsen and Mioara Mandea.
|181||Jakobshavn glacier in 1992.|
|277||Pace of the garden snail Cornu aspersum.
According to New Scientist 12 July 2014, page 37.
|399||Fastest glacier in Greenland, Jakobshavn Isbræ, Spring 2003.
Ian Joughin, Waleed Abdalati and Mark Fahnestock.
|532||Fastest glacier in Greenland, Jakobshavn Isbræ, Summer 2012.
Thought to be the fastest flow rate ever recorded for any glacier in
Greenland or Antarctica.
Ian Joughin, Benjamin E. Smith, David E. Shean and
millimeters per second
|1.90||The Earth's north magnetic pole was moving northwest at somewhat less
than this speed in 2003. This is the fastest
known value for magnetic dip pole migration.
Nils Olsen and Mioara Mandea.
|10||Average land speed of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.|
|30 - 50||Speed of a soft caress for optimal transmission from skin to brain in humans along C-tactile nerve fibers.|
|102.9||Maximum velocity of the rock Maia (A6, mass 8.2 kilograms) on Racetrack Playa, Death
Valley, California, on 4 December 2013 at 7:08
pm. Turns out that the mysterious moving rocks of Racetrack Playa are shoved along by thin crusts of wind-driven floating ice.
Richard D. Norris, James M. Norris, Ralph D. Lorenz, Jib Ray and Brian Jackson.
|190.5||Most common speed (7½ inches per second) for quarter-inch magnetic recording tape.|
|780||Peak speed of a domestic cat's tongue when lapping up a liquid.
Pedro M. Reis, Sunghwan Jung, Jeffrey M. Aristoff, and Roman Stocker
meters per second
|1.5||Speed of the current with which the bladderwort (genus Utricularia)
sucks in its prey.
Olivier Vincent, Carmen Weißkopf, Simon Poppinga, Tom Masselter, Thomas Speck, Marc Joyeux, Catherine Quilliet and Philippe Marmottant.
|1.75||Record for a thoroughbred race horse over a mile course (Dr. Fager at Arlington Park, Illinois, August 24, 1968)|
|2||Speed with which an impulse is transmitted along a human type C nerve fiber.|
|3.53||Average speed of the pedal-powered Gossamer Albatross flying across the English Channel on 12 June 1979. Its top speed was 8.06 meters per second.|
|4.4||Peak speed at which the veiled chameleon shoots out its tongue, at 35°
C. At 15°C, the speed drops to 3.4 m/s.
Christopher V. Anderson and
Julian W. Tang, Andre D. Nicolle,
Christian A. Klettner, Jovan Pantelic, Liangde Wang, Amin Bin Suhaimi,
Ashlynn Y. L. Tan, Garrett W. X. Ong, Ruikun Su, Chandra Sekhar, David D.
W. Cheong and Kwok Wai Tham.
|4.8||Maximum velocity of strike by rattlesnake preying upon
kangaroo rats. In this instance, the snake missed. The maximum for
catching a rat was 4.2 m/s.
Timothy E. Higham, Rulon W. Clark, Clint E. Collins, Malachi D. Whitford and Grace A. Freymiller.
|6||Mean vertical speed of short-finned pilot whales on deep dives. Their
maximum vertical speed was about 9 meters per second.
Natacha Aguilar Soto, Mark P. Johnson, Peter T. Madsen, Francisca Díaz, Iván Domínguez, Alberto Brito and Peter Tyack.
|7.5||White rhino urged on by a Jeep.
|9.83||Slepcev Storch cruising at full flap and 30% power. The Slepcev is a ¾ copy of the WWII Fiesler Fi 156 Storch. It is the slowest fixed-wing, motorized aircraft we have found.|
|10||Salmon fired past dams by the Salmon Cannon.
|10.29||Usain Bolt running the 100-meter in May 2008 (9.72 seconds).|
|11.5||Average fist velocity of karate players throwing a straight
punch.¹ A test of 10 Olympic boxers showed an average velocity at impact
of 9.14 m/s.²
1. P. K. Smith and J. Hamill.
2. T. J. Walilko, D. C. Viano and C. A. Bir.
|18||Pronghorn antelopes running.|
|20||Typical cruising speed of ducks, geese and swans in flight.|
|24.6||55-miles per hour speed limit for vehicles.|
|25.67||Windsurfer Antoine Albeau in 2008.|
|26.39||The French sailboat L'Hydroptere in September 2009.|
|28.63||Kitesurfer Robert Douglas in October 2010.|
|29||Cheetah on a 200-meter course.|
|31.2||Fastest recorded table tennis smash, by Lark Brandt at the 2003 World Fastest Smash Competition.|
|37.16||VeloX3 recumbent bike ridden by Sebastiaan Bowier, 15 September 2013. World record at the time.|
|40||Lava flow, 10 January 1977 eruption of Mt. Nyiragongo. Fastest recorded lava flow.|
|42||Very violent human sneeze. This old estimate is frequently encountered, but probably wrong. See 4.5 m/s, above.|
|~42||Wind velocity at which 60% of trees are knocked down,
regardless of height, diameter or elasticity.
E. Virot, A. Ponomarenko, É. Dehandschoewercker, D. Quéré and C. Clanet.
|42.78||Slowest possible speed for an unladen Boeing 747 on approach for landing, no wind.|
|55||Terminal velocity of human falling in the Earth's atmosphere.|
|56||Calculated estimate of the maximum speed of hypothetical particles of non-clumped dark matter.
Cristian Armendariz-Picon and Jayanth T. Neelakanta.
|56.95||Tennis ball served by Venus Williams (French Open, 2007)|
|58.1||Tennis ball served by Brenda Schultz-McCarthy (2006)|
Speed at which the mandibles of the trap-jaw ant Odontomachus bauri
close (fastest moving animal appendage).
Joseph C. Spagna, Antonis I. Vakis, Chris A. Schmidt,
Sheila N. Patek, Xudong Zhang, Neil D. Tsutsui and Andrew V. Suarez.
|67||Tennis ball served by Greg Rusedski, Indian Wells, California, March 14, 1998.|
|69.29||Tennis ball served by Andy Roddick (Davis Cup, 2004)|
|73.1||Tennis ball served by William Tatem Tilden (1931). This was, obviously, before the age of radar and subject to reasonable skepticism.|
|84||Fastest pelota (in jai-lai).|
|89||Fastest badminton serve.|
|113.2||Maximum surface 3-second wind gust not related to tornados, at Barrow Island, Australia, 10 April 1996.|
|118.8||Hennessy Venom GT automobile, on 3 April 2013 (427.6 km/hour).|
|119.74||Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4 Super Sport. As of 2013, fastest street-legal production car in the world (431.072 km/hour).|
|141.98||Hydroplane boat Spirit of Australia on 8 October 1978.|
|164||Record set by Japan's maglev train, April 2015.|
|168.25||Measured 2-way speed of the motorcycle TOP 1 Oil Ack Attack on 25 September 2010.|
|204.7||Land speed record for a wheel-driven vehicle (737 km/h).|
|405||Ash thrown from Stromboli, the Italian volcano.|
|504||Maximum muzzle velocity of the APERS-T (M546) shell fired from the U.S. Army M101 105mm howitzer.|
|980||SR-71 Blackbird (2193 mph). It flew from New York to London at an average speed of 641.764 m/s (1435.587 miles per hour).|
kilometers per second
|1.023||Mean orbital speed of Moon around Earth.|
|2||Cruising speed of the Japanese space probe Hayabusa 2 (2014).|
|>2||Wind on the “hot Jupiter” exoplanet HD 189733b,
measured by high resolution spectroscopy of the sodium absorption line on
opposite edges of the planet.
Tom Louden and Peter J. Wheatley.
|2.4||Escape velocity at the surface of Earth's Moon.|
|2.989||NASA X-43A scramjet (unmanned, 6,686 mph).|
|4.3||Escape velocity at the surface of Mercury.|
|4.7||Mean orbital speed of Pluto.|
|5.0||Escape velocity at the surface of Mars.|
|5||Velocity at which fault ruptured in 1999 Izmit earthquake.
Michel Bouchon, Marie-Paule Bouin, Hayrullah Karabulut, M. Nafi Toksöz, Michel Dietrich and Ares J. Rosakis.
|5.4||Mean orbital speed of Neptune.|
|5.8||Approximate velocity of DARPA's Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, just before it broke up (11 August 2011).|
|6.8||Mean orbital speed of Uranus.|
|8||Average speed of supershear rupture in a 24 May 2013
aftershock of the Sea of Okhotsk earthquake, occurring at a depth of 640
Zhongwen Zhan, Donald V. Helmberger, Hiroo Kanamori and Peter M. Shearer.
|9.6||Mean orbital speed of Saturn.|
|10.4||Escape velocity at the surface of Venus.|
|11.2||Escape velocity at the Earth's surface. The speed at which no further impulse is needed for a vehicle to escape Earth's gravity.|
|13.1||Mean orbital speed of Jupiter.|
|14||Velocity at which the star Gliese 710 is approaching us. It may pass
through the Oort cloud in 1.5 million years.
Vadim V. Bobylev.
|17.9||Mean orbital speed of Ceres.|
|21||Escape velocity at the surface of Uranus.|
|23.2||Sun's motion through the galaxy.
D. J. McComas, D. Alexashov, M. Bzowski, H. Fehr, J. Heerikhuisen, V. Izmodenov, M. A.
Lee, E. Möbius, N. Pogorelov, N. A. Schwadron and G. P. Zenk.
|24||Escape velocity at the surface of Neptune.|
|29.8||Mean orbital speed of Earth.|
|35.0||Mean orbital speed of Venus.|
|36||Escape velocity at the surface of Saturn.|
|42.1||At Earth's orbit, the speed at which no additional impulse is needed to escape the Sun's gravity.|
|47.9||Mean orbital speed of Mercury.|
|53.2||Estimated velocity of a meteor photographed striking Mare Nubium, on the Moon,
in September 2013, assuming it belonged to the
September ε-Perseid swarm. If it was a sporadic, its velocity was
estimated at only 17 km/s.
Josè M. Madiedo, Josè L. Ortiz, Nicolás Morales and Jesús Cabrera-Caño.
|56||Winds on Neptune.
The wind speed estimate and the claim that it is the
fastest wind in the solar system was made by G. Orton in an ESO press
www.eso.org/public/news/eso0741/). Their study was published as
|59.5||Escape velocity at the “surface” of Jupiter.|
|70.22||Maximum velocity of the Helios 2 spacecraft.|
|80||Present velocity with respect to the solar system of the
small red dwarf star (WISE J072003.20-084651.2, “Scholz's star”) that passed through the Oort cloud about 70,000 years
Eric E. Mamajek, Scott A. Barenfeld, Valentin D. Ivanov, Alexei Y. Kniazev, Petri Väisänen, Yuri Beletsky and Henri M. J. Boffin.
|239 ± 7||Speed with which the Sun travels around the center of the Milky Way.
Andreas Brunthaler et al.
|~100||Velocity of Large and Small Magellanic Clouds relative to the Milky Way.|
|~300||Velocity of Smith's Cloud, a giant gas cloud that orbits the Milky Way. It will
pass through the galactic plane again in about 27,000,000 years.
Felix J. Lockman, Robert A. Benjamin, A. J. Heroux and Glen I. Langston.
|533||Escape velocity for the galaxy, in the neighborhood of the sun.
T. Piffl, C. Scannapieco, J. Binney, M. Steinmetz, R.-D. Scholz, M. E. K. Williams, R. S. de Jong, G. Kordopatis, G. Matijevic, O. Bienayme, J. Bland-Hawthorn, C. Boeche, K. Freeman, B. Gibson, G. Gilmore, E. K. Grebel, A. Helmi, U. Munari, J. F. Navarro, Q. Parker, A. Reid, G. Seabroke, F. Watson, F. G. Wyse, T. Zwitter
|555||Orbital speed of red dwarf star in system with black hole MAXI
J1659-152. A “year” passes in 2.4 hours.
E. Kuulkers et al.
|635||Speed with which the Local Group of Galaxies is moving toward the Hydra-Centaurus supercluster of galaxies. Some think this movement is only apparent, and is caused by the higher density of matter in that direction compared to the opposite direction. The higher density causes space in the direction of Hydra-Centaurus to expand more slowly than it does in the opposite direction.|
|800 to 1600||Pulsar PSR B2224+65, a hypervelocity neutron star, thought to be the
fastest star in our galaxy. The shock wave created by its passage through interstellar hydrogen creates the Guitar Nebula, which is visible only at the wavelengths of hydrogen alpha lines. Its velocity is so
great that it will escape the Milky Way.
S. Chatterjee & J. M. Cordes
G. Hobbs, D. R. Lorimer, A. G. Lyne, and M. Kramer.
megameters per second
|1||Approximate velocity with which the shell of gas is ejected in a
|~1.2||The hypervelocity star US 708 (HVS2).
S. Geier, F. Fürst, E. Ziegerer, T. Kupfer, U. Heber, A. Irrgang, B. Wang, Z. Liu, Z. Han, B. Sesar, D. Levitan, R. Kotak, E. Magnier, K. Smith, W. S. Burgett, K. Chambers, H. Flewelling, N. Kaiser, R. Wainscoat, C. Waters.
|2.65||Estimated speed of the black hole in quasar SDSS J092712.65+294344.0.
The merger of two black holes created a directional pulse of
gravitational radiation; the recoil pushed the resulting supermassive
black hole in the opposite direction. Its velocity is great enough
to carry the black hole out of the galaxy in which it was formerly the
center. The speed is estimated from emission lines.
Stefanie Komossa, H. Zhou and H. Lu.
|5||Speed of the star S2 swinging by the black hole at the center of the
European Southern Oservatory.
|8.9||Velocity of wind pushed by the stellar-mass black hole IGR J17091.
Ashley L. King, Jon M. Miller, John Raymond, Andy C. Fabian, Chris S. Reynolds, Tim R. Kallman, Dipankar Maitra, Edward M. Cackett, Michael P. Rupen.
|10||Approximate velocity with which the shell of gas is ejected in a
|60||Winds from quasar SDSS J023011.28+005913.6
Jesse A. Rogerson, Patrick B. Hall, Paola Rodríguez Hidalgo, Patrik Pirkola and
William N. Brandt.
|93.8||Spin rate of the more massive black hole in the model of quasar OJ287.
M. J. Valtonen, S. Zola, S. Ciprini, A. Gopakumar, K. Matsumoto, K. SadaKane, M. Kidge, K. Gazeas, K. Nilsson and A. Berdyugin.
|197||Spin rate of the black hole in quasar RX J1131-1231.
Rubens C. Reis, Mark T. Reynolds, Jon M. Miller, and Dominic J. Walton.
|199||Spin rate of the black hole in quasar Q 2237+305
Mark T. Reynolds, Dominic J. Walton, Jon M. Miller, and Rubens C. Reis.
|252||Spin rate of the central black hole of NGC 1365.
G. Risaliti, F. A. Harrison, K. K. Madsen, D. J. Walton, S. E. Boggs, F. E. Christensen, W. W. Craig, B. W. Grefenstette, C. J. Hailey, E. Nardini, Daniel Stern and W. W. Zhang.
|299.792 455||Velocity of protons in the Large Hadron Collider (at 7 TeV)|
|299.792 457 999||Velocity of the “Oh-My-God particles” (ultra high energy cosmic rays, assuming they are protons at 320 EeV). The 9's carry on for 17 more
decimal places. For the obvious reason, we have not rounded the number
For more: https://www.quantamagazine.org/20150514-the-particle-that-broke-a-cosmic-speed-limit/
|299.792 458 000||Velocity of light in a vacuum; the ultimate speed limit. Speeds faster than this are in part the result of expansion of the space through which the wave or object is moving.|
Principles of Animal Locomotion.
Princeton University Press, 2003.
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Last revised: 9 February 2016.