What Hyperspace Really Looks Like or How CMBR Becomes Visible Again

At speeds faster than the speed of light, the blueshift effect is quite noticeable

By on January 14th, 2013 21:21 GMT

Doing anything interesting in space, from a movie perspective, means going faster than the speed of light. The concept has been explored ever since Einstein first proposed that the speed of light is the absolute top speed at which anything in the universe can travel.

One way to get around the limit is the so-called hyperspace or variations on the same concept, a method of bending the actual space around you to still technically respect the speed limit while actually traveling faster from point A to point B.

You've seen this portrayed in various ways in movies and TV shows, a popular representation was showing light sources trail as the ship accelerated, like in Star Trek or Star Wars.

Students at the University of Leicester decided to determine what you'd actually see if you were going faster than the speed of light and the result is remarkably less spectacular than what movie makers come up with. It also happens to be more scientifically accurate.

What you would be seeing in a ship traveling faster than light was a bright white glow surrounding you and nothing else.

While a white blur may not be particularly spectacular to look at, the reason why you'd see nothing but white is quite interesting.

The Doppler effect affects any traveling wave, including light. As we move closer to a light source, the wavelength gets shorter, the frequency gets higher so the light gets bluer.

Conversely, as we move away from a light source, the waves are stretched out pushing the light towards the reds, what is called redshift.

Most people would be more familiar with redshift in astronomy, it's what pushes distant light into the infrared spectrum and very distant light into the microwave range.

Blueshift obviously has the opposite effect. At speeds higher than the speed of light, the blueshift effect would be so powerful that normal visible light would be pushed into the X-ray spectrum.

At the same time, the cosmic microwave background radiation, which originated from light created in the early days of the universe, 13 billion or so years ago, is pushed into the visible spectrum.

So people on a ship traveling faster than the speed of light would be seeing the light of the early universe as it was in the early universe.

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