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Astrophysicists: Gamma-ray jets exceed the speed of light

Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.

An artist's drawing of a particle jet emanating from a black hole at the center of a blazar.

Credit: DESY, Science Communication Lab (used with permission by Astronomy Picture of the Day, which is co-managed by Robert Nemiroff at Michigan Tech).
  • Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
  • The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
  • The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.


According to Einstein's theory of general relativity, nothing can travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. Yet in space many strange things happen, including a new proposal by two astrophysicists that blasts creating bursts of gamma rays may be able to speed up faster than light, going superluminal.

Yet, this research by the astrophysicists Jon Hakkila of the College of Charleston and Robert Nemiroff of the Michigan Technological University is not going against Einstein's theory. What the scientists found is that while these bursts surpass the speed of light in surrounding gas clouds, that only happens in the jet mediums, not in a vacuum.

The astrophysicists also think that these superluminal jets can create the time-reversibility that can be observed in gamma-ray burst light curves.

Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

NASA

Jon Hakkila likens what they found to skipping stones across the pond. If someone was to throw such a stone into the water towards you, the stone would go through the air in between hops faster than the waves that it causes are moving through the water. As it gets closer, you will see the waves that are produced by each skip in reverse order. The most recently created ones will get to you first and those from the early skips along the water would come last.

"Standard gamma-ray burst models have neglected time-reversible light curve properties," Hakkila explained. "Superluminal jet motion accounts for these properties while retaining a great many standard model features."

Check out the new paper here, published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts

Remote learning vs. online instruction: How COVID-19 woke America up to the difference

Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.

Credit: Shutterstock
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
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Jupiter's moon Europa has a huge ocean beneath its sheets of ice.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
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New study shows white dwarf stars create an essential component of life.

White dwarfs.

NASA and H. Richer (University of British Columbia)
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"Forced empathy" is a powerful negotiation tool. Here's how to do it.

Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.

Juan Carlos Correa (L) , a prospective home buyer is shown a short sale home by Denise Madan, a Real Estate agent with Re/Max, as he shops for a house on April 22, 2014 in Coral Gables, Florida.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss explains how forced empathy is a powerful negotiating tactic.
  • The key is starting a sentence with "What" or "How," causing the other person to look at the situation through your eyes.
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