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Q & A: Using captured photons as propulsion?

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Most recent answer: 04/21/2014
Q:
could one capture compress and then expel light rays in space to achieve light speed i realize the amount of light captured would have to be enormous but would it work since light has no tangible mass?
- keegan cali (age 20)
jenks oklahoma
A:

Hi Keegan,

First of all, no matter what you use for propulsion you can't achieve the speed of light.  However you can do some tricks to use a photon stream to your advantage.  It's called solar sailing, similar to sailing on the water with a wind. Photons carry momentum so if you catch a photon and then reflect it at an angle your direction of momentum will change.  There is an interesting Wiki article on it that describes the technique and posits possible uses:    

 

LeeH

 


(published on 04/21/2014)

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