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Hyperspeed travel looks wrong: Leicester students

Movie-makers ignore the Doppler shift

Star Wars

Sorry, special effects people, you got it wrong: if the Millennium Falcon can actually do the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs*, Han Solo and his passengers won’t see the stars stretching by.

In fact, they won’t see the stars at all. In addition to slaughtering the inhabitants of the solar system at their destination, the starship travellers will be X-rayed to death without seeing the famous "star stretch" effect.

As pointed out by a group of students at the University of Leicester here, even before a hypothetical starship reaches light-speed, all you’ll see is a big white blob.

The paper Relativistic Optics, written by students for the university’s Journal of Physical Special Topics, points out what should have been obvious to everyone, all along: at realativistic speeds (the students use 0.9999995c as their benchmark), light from stars is no longer visible at all.

Instead, Solo, Chewbacca, the princess, Luke and Obi-Wan Kenobi will be bathed in the X-rays the starlight will be blue-shifted to, and if they’re not killed by that, all they’ll see is the cosmic background radiation, similarly blue-shifted, into visible light.

“It is concluded that the radiation in the field of view of an interstellar traveller will appear as a single cone of light, with the highest intensity observed at the centre of this cone, decreasing radially outwards,” the four students (Riley Connors, Katie Dexter, Joshua Argyle, and Cameron Scoular) write.

They also note that the back-pressure from the incoming radiation will become a big problem for the Millennium Falcon: the intense X-Rays would slow the ship down.

The point of the journal, the university says, is to teach students how to deal with refereed journals. ®

*Yes, The Register knows that parsec is the wrong unit. Tell George.

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