Find out what flying through hyperspace really looks like

Contributed by
Jan 22, 2013

One of the most memorable parts of the original Star Wars trilogy was the Millennium Falcon kicking it into hyperdrive (when it actually worked, that is). What would traveling through hyperspace really look like, though? A group of physics students think they've got the answer.

The University of Leicester publishes a Journal of Physics Special Topics each year that includes short papers submitted by their fourth-year master of physics students. Students are encouraged to come up with imaginative ideas for the paper, and, in this case, we'd say the students went above and beyond.

So did Star Wars get it right? Not according to students Riley Connors, Katie Dexter, Joshua Argyle and Cameron Scoular. In fact, they got a lot of things wrong, but let's start with hyperspace.

Rather than the light of stars stretching out in front of your eyes, these intrepid students concluded we would be most likely to see a central disc of bright light. This is due to the Doppler blue shift, which is a phenomenon caused by a source of electromagnetic radiation moving toward the person observing. The wavelength of the electromagnetic radiation, in the case of hyperspace travel, would be shortened, and thus, for someone in, say, a Millennium Falcon-type craft, the light from the surrounding stars would decrease and shift out of the visible spectrum and into the X-ray range.

Translation—a disc of bright light.

But that's not all, The students also discovered that the intense X-rays from the stars would slow the Millennium Falcon down, so much so that it would require an awful lot of extra energy to overcome. Said student Joshua Argyle, "If the Millennium Falcon existed and really could travel that fast, sunglasses would certainly be advisable. On top of this, the ship would need something to protect the crew from harmful X-ray radiation."

"Perhaps Disney should take the physical implications of such high speed travel into account in their forthcoming films," concluded student Katie Dexter. To that, Miss Dexter, we would say that, when it comes to Star Wars, Disney probably has its hands full enough already.

(via Short List)