What is it Like to Travel in Space on a Light Beam?

Einstein asked what it would be like to travel on a light beam and described this out of world experience in gripping detail.

Light speed, at 300,000km/sec, is the highest speed attainable in space according to Einstein’s theory of relativity, being independent of its source and the observer.

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An infinite amount of energy would be required to accelerate any material body to this speed rendering it impossible because at 10% of the speed of light an object’s mass is a mere 0.5% more than normal, while at 90% of the speed of light it is more than 2x its normal mass.

Keppelaar, the16th century German speaking astronomer, proposed immense sails on a space ship driven by solar winds which potentially could achieve half light speed or 150,000km/sec but only in our Solar System and within the heliosphere, the Sun’s influence.

The Solar System and some extra-Solar stars are within reach

Travelling on a light beam would be exhilarating, enlightening and lethal. A human being would disintegrate, pulled apart by impossible gravity (G) forces. The journey around our Solar System would be rewarding, revealing and purely theoretical.

The initial start up and acceleration would find the passenger in a tube of coloured light with lamp standards bending inwards and vision restricted forwards to a cone.

Our Earth with a 40,070km circumference would be traversed 7.4 times in 1 second, the Moon reached in 1.5secs, Mars 80 million km distant reached in 4mins 43secs.

Jupiter at 600million km in 33mins 33secs, Saturn at 1,200 million km distant reached in 66mins 66secs, Uranus at 2,900 million km reached in 6days 7 hrs and Neptune at 4,500 million km distant attainable in 10days 4hrs.

Why travel in our Solar System? Man’s optimistic and exploring nature ensures curiosity about our environs and the possibility of life under Mar’s polar ice caps which should be investigated along with Jupiter’s moon, Europa’s ice bound oceans and Saturn’s moon Encelabus ice geysers’ along with Saturn’s moon Titan’s methanological landscape. The asteroids, some containing a Nickel core, could be rich resources to be mined in the future.

Extra Solar Stars

Proximal stars such as Proxima Centauri at 4.2 light years distant would require 4.2 years at full light speed to attain. This star is a red dwarf and is accompanied by a binary star Alpha Centauri, in Centaurus (The Centaur) which may have planets orbiting and harbouring life.

Sirius, in Canis Major, the brightest star in the sky, at 8.6 light years distant would demand a full gruelling 8.6 years to attain. Epsilon Eridani, a faint star near Rigel in Orion is the third closest visible star to our Sun.

This star was the subject of Project Ozma in 1960 to listen for signals from a potential civilization. There were no results.

61 Cygni in Cygnus, Procyon in Canis Major and Tau Ceti in Cetus are within 12 light years of our Earth and attainable at light speed.

Deep space exploration

Further out at 6 million light years away and demanding 6 million years of travel by light speed and therefore out of reach and utterly unattainable is a normal looking galaxy NGC 300.

The European Southern Observatory issued an announcement with an accompanying 50 hour exposure on 9/9/2010 on Hubble Site. This is a prominent spiral galaxy in the Sculptor group of galaxies as seen from Australia. The other galaxies in this group are named NGC 55, NGC 253 and NGC 7793.

The star forming regions in its spiral arms of NGC 300 appear as clear clouds of red and pink. The stars are described as resembling grains of sand. The most distant and massive stellar black hole ever found, which is twinned with a normal star, is located in ESO 1004. ESO is credited with this discovery.

Light speed travel potential

Light speed travel is purely academic. An alternate to rocket fuel for deep space propulsion must be found. Hydrogen propulsion has been tried in at least one deep space probe but it needed the assistance of gravity assisted propulsion by Jupiter and Saturn to continue the journey into deep space.

Black hole

Johannes Keppelaar’s 16th century proposal to sail across the Solar System deserves some examination because Neptune could be gained in 20 days.

The alternative to light speed and preserving human life intact could entail warping space likened to pulling the carpet towards one as opposed to walking over and picking the object up.

Gravity bends space and time, so, this may be exploited by warping space into a U and travelling across the top of that self same U and reducing space travel journeys accordingly.

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