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If you assume an interstellar spacecraft of 100 m in diameter traveling to the nearest star - that ship would plow through 3 x 10^20 m^3 of interstellar space. At 0.5 c the energy release of such a spaceship encountering a piece of space "dust" weighing (~0.01g) becomes significant. Only one such impact would be enough to cause severe spacecraft damage given the kinetic energy involved (150,000 Joules). This collision would explode like a pinpoint bomb (30 g of TNT - one half the charge in a hand grenade).

So, what are the chances of such a space ship encountering such a interstellar grain of dust in traveling to the nearest star?


marked as duplicate by honeste_vivere, DilithiumMatrix, user36790, Qmechanic May 24 '16 at 5:37

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    $\begingroup$ possible duplicate of Interstellar dust/matter distribution $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Dec 28 '13 at 2:38
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    $\begingroup$ also, the nearest star to us is the Sun... $\endgroup$ – user29350 Dec 28 '13 at 2:38
  • $\begingroup$ Your calculation seems to be of by several orders of magnitude. Even at non-relativistic speeds of around $0.01c$ I get around $45\;\mathrm{MJ}$ impact energy for a $0.01\;\mathrm{g}$ particle. $\endgroup$ – Nabla Dec 28 '13 at 2:45