Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Dark River Across the Sky

The Astronomy Picture of the Day site regularly throws up amazing images, but this one is especially amazing. A lane of dust about 500 light years away and spanning some 100 light years runs across the sky towards an area rich in stellar beauty: a fabulous backdrop for a space opera about clashing interstellar empires.


Blogger Wm. Luke Everest said...

That's pretty cool. I wonder what, if anything, the dust would do to local economies (if it hindered travel and thus trade, for instance) and if that would force a conflict. Or what if it made uni-directional travel possible via some kind of sail?

July 27, 2010 1:13 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Hi Luke,

Even in lanes like this, interstellar dust is very thinly spread out, scarcely more than the faintest thickening of hard vacuum. But if you were travelling at a significant fraction of light, it would definitely put a crimp in your day and would be best avoided.

I have no idea how fast it is travelling, or what kind of push it would give a sail, but a starship powered by dust is a fantastic notion.

July 30, 2010 10:18 am  

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