The Galactic Barrier, often referred to as the "Energy Barrier", or "The Great Barrier" in the science fiction
universe of Star Trek,is an energy field that completely encompasses the galactic disk of the Milky Way and prevents conventional starship travel beyond the edge of the galaxy.
The Barrier made its first appeared in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before" where the crew of the USS Enterprise had to deal with those affected by the powerful telekinetic and telepathic powers of the field as the ship's power and engines shut down and navigational systems became erratic.
Trekkie theory has suggested the natural or artificial barrier (we're not sure which!) is not meant to keep explorers "in" the galaxy, but to keep something from beyond the galaxy "out". Throughout the series, attempts to travel outside the galaxy were made with the barrier usually damaging or destroying starships that tried to voyage through.
In one of the most memorable of the "Great Barrier" episodes, "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" the Enterprise becomes lost inside the barrier and is saved by the incredible navigational skills of an alien passenger.
So, is the Great Barrier science fact, or a singular brilliant work of imagination?
The reality is not a "barrier," but a halo -a roughly spherical halo of ancient stars thought to be among the oldest objects in the universe -some as old as 18 billion years- called globular clusters. Beyond is an even larger, invisible spherical halo of dark matter that may contain up to 10 times the mass of the observable Milky Way.
But even more exciting is the "Final Frontier" journey to the galactic center, a large bulge several thousand light years across that is believed to harbor a massive black hole a million times larger that the Sun.
Scientists were startled in 2004 when they discovered that the
center of our galaxy is emitting gamma rays with energies in the tens
of trillions of electron volts. This past March, astrophysicists at The
University of Arizona, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the
University of Adelaide (Australia) discovered a mechanism that might
produce these high-energy gamma rays.
The black hole at the center of our Milky Way could be working like a cosmic particle accelerator, shooting up protons that smash at incredible speeds into lower energy protons and creating high-energy gamma rays, they reported.
"It's similar to the same kind of particle physics experiments that the Large Hadron Collider at CERN will perform," UA astrophysicist David Ballantyne said, describing their search for the unltimate "God Particle," the Higgs boson.
Posted by Casey Kazan.
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Source: The Physics of Star Trek by Lawrence M. Krauss.
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