Shop Windows to the Universe

With Explore the Planets, investigate the planets, their moons, and understand the processes that shape them. By G. Jeffrey Taylor, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.

Is there an object in the universe that can go faster than the speed of light? I think there has been some research on this.

Irrespective of Captain Kirk's taking the Enterprise into "warp II," it is impossible for an object in this universe to exceed the speed of light. Only massless objects, such as photons of light, can travel at the speed of light. According to modern phy sics, any object with mass (called material objects) have to travel at speeds LESS than the speed of light.

You're right though...there has been research in the area. About 25 years ago, scientists suggested the possibility that there might exist particles that travel faster than the speed of light. In order for this hypotheses to hold in relation to the theory of General Relativity, the particles would have to have imaginary or negative mass (i.e., the mathematical equations involve the square root of a negative number). Gerald Feinberg first gave these hypothetical particles which would exist within the theory of Relativity the name tachyons, derived from the Greek word for swift, "tachy". So far, no evidence has been found supporting the existence of tachyons. And so most scientists think tachyons don't exist. It is important to recognize that there are theories which support faster-than-light speeds.

Submitted by Ina (Florida, USA)
(September 2,1997)

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games section of our online store includes a climate change card game and the Traveling Nitrogen game!

Windows to the Universe Community



You might also be interested in:

What are the retrograde motions of planets in the sky?

It depends on what kind of motion you are talking about. When seen from the north pole of the celestial sphere all planets orbit around the Sun in a counter-clockwise or direct path. Most planets also...more

How do Astronauts Live in Space?

Almost everyone has a question or two about living in space. What do astronauts do in space? How do they do everyday things like eat, sleep and go to the bathroom? Well, this is our attempt to answer...more

How far is the Earth from the Sun, the Moon and all the other planets? How far are all of the planets from the Sun? Do you know of a software that tracks the planets in real-time?

There is a really neat internet program called Solar System Live that shows the position of all of the planets and the Sun for any given day. If you go to that page, you'll see an image similar to the...more

Is it really true that man never really walked on the Moon?

The picture of the American Flag (the one put there by the Apollo astronauts) is waving (or straight out) in the wind. How could that be possible if there is no atmosphere on the Moon? Was it some sort...more

How many planets orbit the sun?

I was wondering if there is a new planet? Are there planets (a tenth planet?) after Pluto belonging to our solar system? What are the names of the new planets discovered in the solar system? Are there...more

According to Stephen Hawking, any object with an energy which equals Plank's energy has to become a black hole.

If that is so, the energy released during the Big Bang must have created many such black holes. Therefore most of the Energy of the Big bang must have disappeared in that form. Then how did the Universe...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF