Saturday, 20 July 2013

How far can one travel from Earth?

Since one can not travel faster than light, one might conclude that a human can never travel further from Earth than 40 light years if the traveler is active between the age of 20 and 60. One would easily think that a traveler would never be able to reach more than the very few solar systems which exist within the limit of 20–40 light years from the earth. But that would be a mistaken conclusion. Because of time dilation, a hypothetical spaceship can travel thousands of light years during the pilot's 40 active years. If a spaceship could be built that accelerates at a constant 1g, it will after a little less than a year be traveling at almost the speed of light as seen from Earth. Time dilation will increase his life span as seen from the reference system of the Earth, but his lifespan measured by a clock traveling with him will not thereby change. During his journey, people on Earth will experience more time than he does. A 5 year round trip for him will take 6½ Earth years and cover a distance of over 6 light-years. A 20 year round trip for him (5 years accelerating, 5 decelerating, twice each) will land him back on Earth having traveled for 335 Earth years and a distance of 331 light years. A full 40 year trip at 1 g will appear on Earth to last 58,000 years and cover a distance of 55,000 light years. A 40 year trip at 1.1 g will take 148,000 Earth years and cover about 140,000 light years. This same time dilation is why a muon traveling close to c is observed to travel much further than c times its half-life (when at rest).

Source : Wikipedia

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