Suppose you are in a vessel traveling at relativistic or near relativistic speed relative to your local galaxy--whatever is physically reasonable, and won't get rapidly torn apart by high energy collisions.

A couple of things should probably happen, right:

  1. The background glow and light of the galaxy should blueshift in the direction you are travelling.
  2. Any hydrogen, dust, or small particles that you hit will have large energies

With that in mind, what would the apparent exterior "temperature" be in front of the ship, the nature of the "frictional" force involved (given the vessel is about building sized), and how much force would be involved; further, would this be a force as we think of it at non-relativistic speeds, or a degrading wind that has an acid-like vaporizing impact on the matter of the ship due to the properties of high energy particle collisions?

On the brighter side, is there some lower speed where there exists a balance between the incident energy and the material integrity of the ship such that the people on board could actually have access to an energy source: e.g. the "frictional heat" (particle collisions) or increase in the frequency component of the energy of incident photons that they experience on the leading surfaces of their vessel?


1 Answer 1


what would the apparent exterior "temperature" be in front of the ship

Unfortunately, this question has no agreed-upon answer at this time. Planck and Einstein proposed that $T'=T/\gamma$, while Ott showed that using a different approach you get $T'=\gamma T$ and then still later Landsberg defined $T'=T$ and after that Cavalleri and Salgarelli suggested that thermodynamic quantities only make sense in the rest frame so that no general transformation exists.

Here is a good review article: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-17526-4

  • $\begingroup$ thanks, I'll review that; upvoted, but I'll leave the question open for a bit $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    May 24, 2019 at 16:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Good idea, especially since other answers may concentrate on other non-thermodynamic methods to answer the rest of the question $\endgroup$
    – Dale
    May 24, 2019 at 16:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.