"Engage!" says Captain Jean Luc Picard and whoosh! the Enterprise engages its warp drive, all the stars get stretched as spacetime is compressed and the crew boldly go into the galactic unknown. Simple, right? Well, it probably won't come as a surprise to find that the science fiction version of traveling close to the speed of light isn't entirely... complete.
You know that "stretchy bright star" thing the Universe does when the Enterprise enters warp, or when the Millennium Falcon jumps to hyperspace? Well, it's wrong according to physicists at the University of Leicester.
A group of final year Masters students decided to understand what we would really see if we were to approach the speed of light. And far from the dramatic star trails, we'd actually see a blurred white blob in the direction we are headed. Why? Well, that comes down to some pretty fundamental physics as to how light works.
As our hypothetical starship rips through spacetime, any light from the stars ahead of us will be blueshifted. Like a police car with sirens blaring, it sounds high-pitched as the car approaches you and lower pitch as it moves away. This is known as Doppler shift - the sound waves (of the siren) are compressed as the car approaches and stretched as the car speeds away.