Imagine you had perfect technology and unlimited fuel. How far could you go?
Human spaceflight has brought us beyond Earth, but we could potentially venture even farther.
Imagine that we could constantly accelerate at the same rate as Earth’s gravitational pull, 9.8 m/s², indefinitely.
While you’d initially speed up, you’ll rapidly approach the speed of light.
Owing to Einstein’s Special Relativity, time will dilate and lengths will contract.
As you continue to accelerate, the distances and travel times to faraway destinations will plummet.
At the halfway mark, simply reverse your thrust to accelerate in the opposite direction for the remaining journey.
Reaching the inner Oort Cloud, at the Solar System’s boundary, takes approximately one year.
But it’s only a little longer — 4 years — to arrive at the Alpha Centauri system, 4.3 light-years away.
Journeying to the Orion Nebula, located more than 1,000 light-years distant, requires just 15 years.
Only 20 years of traveling brings you to the Milky Way’s center, 25,000 light-years away.
Arrival at the Andromeda galaxy, 2.5 million light-years distant, is achievable after just 30 years.
In fact, you could reach any galaxy presently within 15 billion light-years after merely 45 years of travel.
Distant journeys are irrevocably one-way, as billions of years pass back on Earth.
Mostly Mute Monday tells a scientific story about the Universe in visuals, images, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.Ethan Siegel is the author of Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology. You can pre-order his third book, currently in development: the Encyclopaedia Cosmologica.