Three ways to travel at (nearly) the speed of light

Three ways to travel at (nearly) the speed of light
Credit: NASA

One hundred years ago today, on May 29, 1919, measurements of a solar eclipse offered verification for Einstein's theory of general relativity. Even before that, Einstein had developed the theory of special relativity, which revolutionized the way we understand light. To this day, it provides guidance on understanding how particles move through space—a key area of research to keep spacecraft and astronauts safe from radiation.

The theory of special relativity showed that particles of light, photons, travel through a vacuum at a constant pace of 670,616,629 miles per hour—a that's immensely difficult to achieve and impossible to surpass in that environment. Yet all across space, from black holes to our near-Earth environment, particles are, in fact, being accelerated to incredible speeds, some even reaching 99.9% the speed of light.

One of NASA's jobs is to better understand how these particles are accelerated. Studying these superfast, or relativistic, particles can ultimately help protect missions exploring the solar system, traveling to the Moon, and they can teach us more about our galactic neighborhood: A well-aimed near-light-speed particle can trip onboard electronics and too many at once could have negative radiation effects on space-faring astronauts as they travel to the Moon—or beyond.

Here are three ways that acceleration happens.

1. Electromagnetic Fields

Most of the processes that accelerate particles to relativistic speeds work with electromagnetic fields—the same force that keeps magnets on your fridge. The two components, electric and magnetic fields, like two sides of the same coin, work together to whisk particles at relativistic speeds throughout the universe.

Electric and magnetic fields can add and remove energy from particles, changing their speeds. Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

In essence, electromagnetic fields accelerate charged particles because the particles feel a force in an electromagnetic that pushes them along, similar to how gravity pulls at objects with mass. In the right conditions, electromagnetic fields can accelerate particles at near-light-speed.

On Earth, electric fields are often specifically harnessed on smaller scales to speed up particles in laboratories. Particle accelerators, like the Large Hadron Collider and Fermilab, use pulsed to accelerate charged particles up to 99.99999896% the speed of light. At these speeds, the particles can be smashed together to produce collisions with immense amounts of energy. This allows scientists to look for elementary particles and understand what the universe was like in the very first fractions of a second after the Big Bang.

2. Magnetic Explosions

Magnetic fields are everywhere in space, encircling Earth and spanning the solar system. They even guide charged particles moving through space, which spiral around the fields.

When these magnetic fields run into each other, they can become tangled. When the tension between the crossed lines becomes too great, the lines explosively snap and realign in a process known as magnetic reconnection. The rapid change in a region's magnetic field creates electric fields, which causes all the attendant charged particles to be flung away at high speeds. Scientists suspect magnetic reconnection is one way that particles—for example, the solar wind, which is the constant stream of charged particles from the sun—is accelerated to relativistic speeds.

Those speedy particles also create a variety of side-effects near planets. Magnetic reconnection occurs close to us at points where the sun's pushes against Earth's magnetosphere—its protective magnetic environment. When magnetic reconnection occurs on the side of Earth facing away from the sun, the particles can be hurled into Earth's upper atmosphere where they spark the auroras. Magnetic reconnection is also thought to be responsible around other planets like Jupiter and Saturn, though in slightly different ways.

Three ways to travel at (nearly) the speed of light
Huge, invisible explosions are constantly occurring in the space around Earth. These explosions are the result of twisted magnetic fields that snap and realign, shooting particles across space. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA's Magnetospheric Multiscale spacecraft were designed and built to focus on understanding all aspects of magnetic reconnection. Using four identical spacecraft, the mission flies around Earth to catch in action. The results of the analyzed data can help scientists understand particle acceleration at relativistic speeds around Earth and across the universe.

3. Wave-Particle Interactions

Particles can be accelerated by interactions with electromagnetic waves, called wave-particle interactions. When collide, their fields can become compressed. Charged particles bouncing back and forth between the waves can gain energy similar to a ball bouncing between two merging walls.

These types of interactions are constantly occurring in near-Earth space and are responsible for accelerating particles to speeds that can damage electronics on spacecraft and satellites in space. NASA missions, like the Van Allen Probes, help scientists understand wave-particle interactions.

Wave-particle interactions are also thought to be responsible for accelerating some cosmic rays that originate outside our solar system. After a supernova explosion, a hot, dense shell of compressed gas called a blast wave is ejected away from the stellar core. Filled with magnetic fields and charged , wave-particle interactions in these bubbles can launch high-energy cosmic rays at 99.6% the speed of light. Wave-particle interactions may also be partially responsible for accelerating the solar wind and cosmic rays from the sun.


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May 31, 2019
"When the tension between the crossed lines becomes too great..." The lines don't actually 'cross'. They only denote equipotentials in fields. What happens is that field-gradients become too steep for a given configuration where an opportunity arises for a lower-energy distribution in another configuration. This is the inexorable law of entropy: nature abhors highs and lows of anything: densities disperse, rarefactions are filled, steep gradients are leveled, information is diluted with noise, black-holes leak mass/energy/gravitation in radiation...

May 31, 2019
a tertiary component
of the em field equation in early Maxwell / Hamilton equations
is called the s c a l a r
the time component )super luminal(
see writings of t.e. bearden.
resistance in electronics really is futile

there was machine built by Antione prior that caused an affair in France 1965 because it used this magnetically created time field to anneal de-stress the body of stresses at the molecular level rendering away cancerous possible mutations

a second "unverified" super luminal effect is torsion fields
the torque effect of spinning masses or the longitudinal rotation of free space can be tuned to particle types

russian scientists developed a technique to resolve to present position of stars by a treatment of photographic film

crop circles may be time symmetric (think of camera obscura) messages from a higher / future reality transcribed onto our present day earth fields of crops , then often erased like a vhs recorder when the message is received


May 31, 2019
then you could look at the writings / history of spokesperson bob Lazar and element 115
space time compression allowing one to jump through from one star system to another

and so it goes on and on

May 31, 2019
Another wave-particle interaction, light-pumping, e.g., with a hydrogenated graphene (graphane) metamaterial, probably deserves a look from NASA.

https://twitter.c...52978689

May 31, 2019
WOWWEE! All these woomongers I get to ridicule.

All right you clowns. Line-op, bend over... drop your polka-dotted satin shorts!
It is my privilege to vigorously apply the Bored of Education to your fundamental ignorance.
The swats you desperately needed too concentrate your limited intellects.
A couple of years ago as you flunked sixth-grade for the third time.
That'd make you a trump!

Since you base your delusions that you understand the material in this article by gluing it to your foreheads?

Cause you read a horse & buggy manual which you are applying to modern electro-magnetic theory. With the advanced tools of shovel & broom.

I can visualize the scene as your sweaty prehensile appendages feverishly shove the plankett across your ouiija board/
In expectation that your spirit guides will provide you the answers.

Sorry boys but your spirit guides are spitting ectoplasm all over the aether.
Laughing at how gullible you boys are to a fakir's sales pitch.

May 31, 2019
Any actual mass traveling close to the speed of light or even a fraction of it, would create huge collisions with anything touched. KinEnergy = mv^2 / 2 , so a collision at high speed is massive.

Jun 01, 2019
if a particle (or anything else) was travelling faster than the speed of light would there be any way to know, measure or sense that particle and that it was in fact travelling faster than light speed?

Jun 01, 2019
Any actual mass traveling close to the speed of light or even a fraction of it, would create huge collisions with anything touched. KinEnergy = mv^2 / 2 , so a collision at high speed is massive.


Right, the idea here is to generate a concept whereby a rocketship with on board human cargo can travel to other galaxies with little or no signs of aging by the time they reach Andromeda.

It has already been calculated that rocketships cannot carry enough onboard fuel to even reach 50% of lightspeed & ion engine concepts will require that rocketship travel almost the full distance to the nearest star before the craft can even reach 75% of lightspeed, by now the crew have died of old age.

Magnetic fields are weak & weaken even more as distance from the Sun increases & cannot propel even nano-sized particles to relativistic speeds such as can be accomplished inside inside Earthbound colliders using individual protons traveling in magnetic fields, much less a rocketship.

cont'd...

Jun 01, 2019
cont'd.......so if a concept of propelling a hulled craft to just 50% of lightspeed is attained, that hulled craft will never make it the short distance between Earth & Alpha Centauri before it is completely destroyed.

Nano-sized particles will rip the hull to shreds based on the calculated kinetic energy impacts of KE=1/2mv² of such interstellar debris which are estimated to exist at about 1-2 dozen such particles per cubic kilometer of interstellar space.

Jun 01, 2019
and so it goes on and on


No, but you do - incessantly and inanely: blocked for inane trolling.

Jun 01, 2019
if a particle (or anything else) was travelling faster than the speed of light would there be any way to know, measure or sense that particle and that it was in fact travelling faster than light speed?


It can't travel faster than the universal speed limit, according to current physics, which is equivalent to the light speed in vacuum.

But in other materials, particles that travel faster than light emit Cerenkov radiation - it gives the blue shine in water cooled nuclear reactor vessels [ https://en.wikipe...adiation ].

Jun 01, 2019
I have a strange theory of creating a language from doppler

the speed ( velocity limit ) of light is a resonance , if lets say approximately of mass of lead is due to a relativistic effect of 60 % the speed of light . the mass/light inversion ect . it's just a symmetry.

you know that the lead shielding in nuclear reactors , I believe it may be due to neutrino interaction actually creates gold particles , I went mental when I read some bacteria or fungi can actually metabolise and render inert forms of radioactive decay

I'm just writing from memory but it's all there in ( published ?/? cited ) , literature

Jun 01, 2019
why do you think there are 72 virjin's in heaven in the koran , it's the 72 octaves of the electromagnetic spectrum

Jun 01, 2019
that blue Cerenkov radiation was the reason they chose the blue colour of the idiot dr Manhattan in comic / movie "the watchmen"

Jun 02, 2019
and so it goes on and on


No, but you do - incessantly and inanely: blocked for inane trolling.
.......you're as much the "troll" as anyone you complain about. If you think this opinion of yours has any validating basis to it then you too should cease from Commenting, otherwise knock it off with trying to be one of those THOUGHT POLICE who live here with that embedded Physorg Moderator moniker of Da Scheneibo.

Jun 03, 2019
Lol, they are still pushing GR and SR

Jun 03, 2019
Send an unmanned sublight starship over, take your sweet time, then once you have established a foothold in the system, send people over as mind uploads as a signal travelling at the speed of light.

Jun 04, 2019
Send an unmanned sublight starship over, take your sweet time, then once you have established a foothold in the system, send people over as mind uploads as a signal travelling at the speed of light.
anything above the speed of light imo out to be instantaneous or nearly so. There may not be any warp speeds like in science fiction

Jun 04, 2019
When travelling at the speed of light
Benni> Nano-sized particles will rip the hull to shreds based on the calculated kinetic energy impacts of KE=1/2mv²

Why, Benni, is Isaac's KE=1/2mv² being used instead of Albert's formula?

Jun 04, 2019
When travelling at the speed of light
Benni> Nano-sized particles will rip the hull to shreds based on the calculated kinetic energy impacts of KE=1/2mv²

Why, Benni, is Isaac's KE=1/2mv² being used instead of Albert's formula?
....because there is no transformation of mass to energy.

Jun 05, 2019
if a particle (or anything else) was travelling faster than the speed of light would there be any way to know, measure or sense that particle and that it was in fact travelling faster than light speed?
says TopCat22

They tell us that nothing can travel faster than the speed of Light, but let's try this anyway.
Take a measurement of the distance that a photon travels in a straight line within the duration of exactly 1 Earth year. We go by Earth years, you know. Then divide that distance by 12. After that, go into outer space and place 12 markers, evenly spaced along the route that will be taken by the photon. Have a motion picture camera ready. Let loose the photon in LEO and use a nuclear clock to time how long it takes for the photon to get to the first marker. Write down the distance and duration. Keep doing that for the rest of the markers - all 12. When the photon arrives at the 12th marker, record the distance and duration also. Then add up the distance and duration

Jun 05, 2019
Sir Isaac Newton at the Speed of Light
When travelling at the speed of light
Benni> Nano-sized particles will rip the hull to shreds based on the calculated kinetic energy impacts of KE=1/2mv²

Why, Benni, is Isaac's KE=1/2mv² being used instead of Albert's formula?
....because there is no transformation of mass to energy.

331 years and counting
The greatest sage of physics laid his mark
In motion acceleration inertia gravity
Laid the edifice that physics resides
For every wheel that turns
In transport industry inertia of reaction in space travel
In energy
Energy in motion
Sir Isaac Newton realised the energy in motion
The first law of motion - mass remains in continuous motion until acted on by force
Sir Isaac Newton derived the most famous equation
The most humble equation
The most basic equation of energy in motion
Kinetic Energy of motion
Applies up to the Speed Light

KE = 1/2mv²

Jun 05, 2019
The most humble equation
The most basic equation of energy in motion
Kinetic Energy of motion
Applies up to the Speed Light

KE = 1/2mv²
.......and the Pop-Cosmology crowd living here with the monikers of Da Schneibo, Castro-, Ghosty1923, Tor-lar, Whydg, RC, danR, etc, do not believe this. They think like Isaac did, that the speed of light is subject to the strength of the gravity field through which LIGHT PARTICLES are traveling, this is to say that they believe there exists in the Universe fields of gravity so strong that the speed of light can gradually be diminished to a velocity that is less than what the Immutable Laws of Physics mandate for it's speed. This is why I persist in asking them if they've ever seen a Differential Equation they can solve, but they're unable to make the connection, they'd rather live in their Pop-Cosmology fantasyland.

Jun 06, 2019
Sir Isaac Newton at the Speed of Light

The Immutable Laws of Physics
When a body is motion at 90% the speed of light
Acceleration is inertial mass
Kinetic energy, energy
Is not inertial mass
Only inertial mass contains gravity
Just as the force of gravity is the same on one kilogram
At 1m/s as 90%C
When this kilogram of inertial mass is accelerating
Another m/s
The force on this kilogram is 1 Newton
Because
Velocity is relative
It does not make any difference what speed you are going
Sir Isaac Newton's Laws of Motion
Always Remain the Same

p.s. when all around is calamitous, when the stars are falling from the sky
there is a certainty in this vacuum, this vacuous vacuum
whatever velocity we attain in this vacuum
Sir Isaac Newton's Laws of Motion are like the Rock of Ages
The Immutable Laws of Physics

Jun 08, 2019
speed of light changes according to the ambient time at location. wherever time is dilated speed of light increases and vice versa. and there goes SR out the window

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