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Bell’s Spaceships: The Views from Bow and Stern

  • Geraint F. Lewis (a1), Luke A. Barnes (a1) and Martin J. Sticka (a1)
Abstract

Unravelling apparent paradoxes has proven to be a powerful tool for understanding the complexities of special relativity. In this paper, we focus upon one such paradox, namely Bell’s spaceship paradox, examining the relative motion of two uniformly accelerating spaceships. We consider the view from either spaceship, with the exchange of photons between the two. This recovers the well-known result that the leading spaceship loses sight of the trailing spaceship as it is redshifted and disappears behind what is known as the ‘Rindler horizon’. An immediate impact of this is that if either spaceship tries to measure the separation through ‘radar ranging’, bouncing photons off one another, they would both eventually fail to receive any of the photon ‘pings’ that they emit. We find that the view from this trailing spaceship is, however, starkly different, initially, seeing the leading spaceship with an increasing blueshift, followed by a decreasing blueshift. We conclude that, while the leading spaceship loses sight of the trailing spaceship, for the trailing spaceship the view of the separation between the two spaceships, and the apparent angular size of the leading spaceship, approach asymptotic values. Intriguingly, for particular parameterisation of the journey of the two spaceships, these asymptotic values are identical to those properties seen before the spaceships began accelerating, and the view from the trailing spaceship becomes identical to when the two spaceships were initially at rest.

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Corresponding author
Email: geraint.lewis@sydney.edu.au
References
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Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia
  • ISSN: 1323-3580
  • EISSN: 1448-6083
  • URL: /core/journals/publications-of-the-astronomical-society-of-australia
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