Some suggest that there might be currents of charged particles moving at 0.98c in interstellar space. Since this is tainted by association with the crack “Electric Universe” cosmology, my first impression is to be dismissive of the possibility.

But, proponents point to current observations and ideas, so I thought I’d check on this claim in and of itself. Given what we do know, are such currents possible or excluded? And, if possible, could they be massive enough to propell a space craft bearing a large sail?

  • $\begingroup$ What are you talking about? Please give a source that isn't just a comment in a SE discussion. $\endgroup$
    – ProfRob
    Mar 5, 2017 at 0:10
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    $\begingroup$ @RobJeffries if I knew ofsuch a thing I wouldnot be asking. But I know it’s a fallicy to claim that there's no such thing because I personally have nit heard of it. I want more authorative input before calling it BS. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Mar 5, 2017 at 3:19

1 Answer 1


Define "current".

If one particle makes a current, there are lots of particles that hit the Earth at energies much more than 0.98c, most famously the "Oh my god particle"

If you have many particles travelling at these speeds you don't have a river, more a beam, or a jet or particles. These are produced by active accretion disks around black holes.

enter image description here

In this combination image from Nasa (the background is a visible light image from hubble, the pink lobes are from the VLA, a radio telescope), an active radio galaxy is producing two jets, that are much longer than the size of the galaxy. These consist of particles that have been accelerated by the black hole's gravity and shot into space. A ship would find it hard to use the energy in these jets. Particles travelling at close to the speed of light are high energy radiation. A space ship unlucky enough to pass unprotected through the beams would be irradiated. I haven't done the maths, but the dose would probably be enough to kill anyone on board. It's hard to extract useful energy from anything so violent.

However if you are looking for random currents of charge, curving between the stars, and interstellar sailors tacking and jibing betweent them, you may be out of luck.

  • $\begingroup$ Where did the "Oh my god particle" expression come from ? Just curious. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2017 at 23:12
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    $\begingroup$ @StephenG A lab detected a single, extremely high energy particle and the guy who saw it wrote the era-equivalent of "OMG! O_O" on the printout. No comparable signal has ever been observed, and equipment error/malfunction is still a plausible explanation. $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2017 at 2:16
  • $\begingroup$ @zibadawatimmy Wrong. At least fifteen similar events have since been confirmed. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oh-My-God_particle $\endgroup$
    – Max
    Mar 25, 2018 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Max To quote that: [citation needed]. Some of the the other citations elsewhere make oblique references to such detections, but I'm having trouble hunting down something more definitive and clear. $\endgroup$ Mar 25, 2018 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ @zibadawatimmy Well, either way, particles that are on the scale of ~200 times less energetic than the OMG particle hit the Earth's atmosphere many times a second. I'd think that's at the bare minimum 'comparable'. $\endgroup$
    – Max
    Mar 25, 2018 at 15:53

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