Blazars are pretty cool things. Basically what makes them cool is they can travel very, very, very fast.
Nothing we know of zips along more quickly than light. Einstein, nearly 100 years ago, said it’s not possible. For us, the speed limit makes strange sense: Go faster than light, and you could return before you’ve left, become your own grandpa, or other perform other leaps of cosmic logic.
Fast forward a century. Astronomers are now measuring stuff — material, matter, things — that moves at so close to the speed of light you might think it’d make Einstein a bit nervous. His theory of relativity appears not to be endangered by the blazing speeds, though.
Among thee speed demons of the universe are Jupiter-sized blobs of hot gas embedded in streams of material ejected from hyperactive galaxies known as blazars. Last week at a meeting here of the American Astronomical Society, scientists announced they had measured blobs in blazar jets screaming through space at 99.9 percent of light-speed.
Now, this is the closest thing to travelling at the speed of light I have ever heard of. The problem with Einstein’s theory is that you can’t travel at, or faster than, the speed of light. The problem with intergalactic travel is that even if you were travelling at the speed of light, it would take four years to get to Alpha Centauri. Now, according to the story I’ve read, blazars travelling at that speed are being ejected from black holes. Problem presented with that is we don’t have any black holes handy to use here on Earth. And, the bottom line is that although these things are travelling super, super, super fast, they still don’t violate Einstein’s theory. So, the limit for mass is still slightly under the speed of light. If Einstein is correct, there is no way to observe something travelling faster than the speed of light, and therefore it is still impossible for man to re-create the circumstances. It would be cool to prove you can travel faster than the speed of light. That would allow us to ponder travelling to far away galaxies. But, it’s not going to happen in my lifetime, or my son’s. As cool as blazars are, they still follow the basic laws of physics.