Weird energy beam seems to travel five times the speed of light

May 22, 2017

By Joshua Sokol

Please welcome to the stage a master illusionist. An energy beam that stabs out of galaxy M87 like a toothpick in a cocktail olive is pulling off the ultimate magic trick: seeming to move faster than the speed of light.

Almost five times faster, in fact, as measured by the Hubble Space Telescope. This feat was first observed in 1995 in galaxy M87,  and has been seen in many other galaxies since. It might have you questioning your entire reality. Nothing can break the cosmic speed limit, right? You can’t just flaunt the laws of physics… can you?

If you want to just enjoy the illusion from your seat in the audience, stop reading. Otherwise, I welcome you backstage for a look at how the trick works – and how it’s helping astronomers to understand the fate of entire galaxies.

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