You know when you’re watching Star Wars and the Millennium Falcon goes into hyperdrive (when it works, that is) to escape some nasty Imperial TIE Fighters, and then the stars turn into long white streaks and the Millennium Falcon flies away in a flash, to fight another day? According to British scientists and researchers, this is all wrong.
According to Space.com, a team of physics Masters students at the University of Leicester in England claim that hyperspace would actually resemble a brilliant, centralized glow of white light, rather than the elongated star-streaks seen in Star Wars and Star Trek. Thanks to the Doppler Effect, the stars’ light would shift out of our visible spectrum. Leicester student Joshua Argyle said in a statement, “The resultant effects we worked out were based on Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity, so while we may not be used to them in our daily lives, Han Solo and his crew should certainly understand its implications.”
The Doppler Effect is the increase or decrease in the frequency of sound, light, or other waves as a source moves relative to an observer, as perceived by the observer. That’s why the sound an ambulance’s siren is higher pitched when it’s coming toward you, but lower as it drives away. And while visible light would be shifted out of our visible spectrum because of the ship’s speed, radiation that we normally can’t see, such as the cosmic background radiation, could shift up into our visible range.
‘If the Millennium Falcon existed and really could travel that fast, sunglasses would certainly be advisable,’ said research team member Riley Connors. ‘On top of this, the ship would need something to protect the crew from harmful X-ray radiation.’
The research team also suggests the increased X-ray radiation from the starlight shift would push back on the spaceship itself. That would cause the vehicle to slow down rather than speed up, much like the pressure felt at the bottom of the ocean floor. So the Millenium Falcon or Starship Enterprise would have to carry extra energy reserves to counteract the pressure to move forward.
With a new Star Wars film on the horizon, research team member Katie Dexter suggests, “Perhaps Disney should take the physical implications of such high speed travel into account in their forthcoming films.” We probably shouldn’t hold our breaths, Katie.