REMEMBER that dazzling moment in the Star Wars movies when the Millennium Falcon goes into hyperspace and a kaleidoscope of stars streaks past the ship?
Sadly - like a lot of things in sci-fi movies - that really wouldn't happen, a team of British science students has calculated. Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia would not see any approaching stars as they accelerate through the galaxy because of the Doppler effect, students at the University of Leicester said.
This is the phenomenon by which the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation shortens or lengthens depending on whether the source is nearing or moving away from the person who is perceiving it.
The classic example of the Doppler effect is the siren of a fire engine or ambulance, whose pitch changes relative to the bystander as it races down the street.
Because the Millennium Falcon is speeding towards the stars, the wavelength of the stellar light would shorten, which means it would move out of the visible part of the energy spectrum and into the X-ray range, the students calculated.
On the other hand, cosmic microwave background radiation - the backwash of radiation from the big bang which created the universe 14 billion years ago - would lengthen in wavelength and suddenly become visible. To those on-board the Millennium Falcon, this ancient energy would appear as a central disc of brilliant light.
''If the Millennium Falcon existed and really could travel that fast, sunglasses would certainly be advisable,'' said Riley Connors, 21, who worked with three other final-year master of physics students on the project.