What would faster-than-light (hyperspace) travel look like? Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer (Official) (YouTube/Star Wars)

What would faster-than-light (hyperspace) travel look like?

Piece of junk or not, the Millennium Falcon looks a lot different when you engage the warp drive.

In the movies, stars stream out into long trails as a spaceship travels through ‘hyperspace’ or uses its ‘warp drive’. Unfortunately, because these concepts are entirely fictional, usually involving alternative universes or extra dimensions, science can say very little about what ‘real’ hyperspace travel might look like.

Advertisement

However, if we regard hyperspace travel as the ability to travel at almost the speed of light, we can categorically dismiss the idea of stars elongating as shown in Star Wars and other movies. In fact, as your speed increased, you would see the stars fade and eventually disappear as their light is redshifted into the X-ray part of the spectrum, which is invisible to the human eye. The starlight would be slowly replaced by a diffuse glow, concentrated towards your direction of travel, caused by the cosmic microwave background (the leftover radiation from the Big Bang which fills the entire sky) being redshifted into the visible part of the spectrum.


Advertisement

Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.