This Is What Hyperspace Travel Would Really Look Like

Hundreds of sci-fi movies have depicted hyperspace travel, where stars appear as streaks of light as the spacecraft in question surges forward. But according to a team of physicists, that's bullshit—and hyperspace travel would look a whole lot fuzzier.


A team of graduate students from the University of Leicester, UK, has turned their thinking to what astronauts would see when they traveled close to the speed of light, and it turns out it's nothing like the movies would have us believe.

You see, the physicists have realized that you wouldn't even be able to see any stars, a result of the Doppler effect. The Doppler effect—responsible for the changing pitch of a siren as it moves towards or away from you—dictates that when a person moves toward a source of electromagnetic radiation, the speed of approach causes an apparent shift in wavelength. That's why sirens get higher pitched as they approach you.

But in a spacecraft moving at the speed of light, the frequency of light would be shifted so dramatically that it would fall outside the visible spectrum, meaning the astronauts onboard wouldn't see any starlight at all. Instead, Cosmic Microwave Background—radiation left behind after the Big Bang—would be shifted into the visible spectrum

The result: the crew would actually see a central disc of bright light. That means that hyperspace would look like the fuzzy image shown above, and not a thing like the Hollywood version, an example of which is pictured below. Thanks, physics: you just made sci-fi movies even less accurate. [Leicester University]


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