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17th January 2013

What would hyperspace travel really look like?

The sight of the Millennium Falcon making the "jump to lightspeed" is one of the most iconic images from the Star Wars trilogy. But University of Leicester students have calculated that – in reality – Han, Luke and Leia would not see the light from stars stretching past the ship as we are shown in the movies.


hyperspace travel


The final year masters students – from the Department of Physics and Astronomy – found that the depiction of hyperspace in Star Wars is light years away from how it would appear in reality. In the films, every star in the sky is seen to stretch before the characters' eyes when the hyperdrive is engaged.

The four students – Riley Connors, Katie Dexter, Joshua Argyle and Cameron Scoular – have shown that this would not be the case. In their studies, they explained how the crew would actually see a central disc of bright light. There would be no sign of stars, because of the Doppler effect – the same phenomenon which causes the siren of an ambulance to become higher in pitch as it moves towards you.

Doppler blue shift is caused by a source of electromagnetic radiation, including visible light, moving towards an observer. The effect means that the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation will be shortened. From the Millennium Falcon crew’s viewpoint, the wavelength of light from stars will decrease and ‘shift’ out of the visible spectrum into the X-ray range.

They would simply see a central disc of bright light (pictured above) as Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation is shifted into the visible spectrum. Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation is radiation left behind from the Big Bang, and is spread across the universe fairly uniformly.

After further investigation, the group determined that the intense X-rays from stars would push the ship back, causing it to slow down. The pressure felt by the ship would be comparable to that felt at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

Their calculations also show that Han would need to store extra amounts of energy on his ship to overcome this pressure in order to continue on his journeys.


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