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I'm writing a murder mystery set on an interstellar starship.

Context: The victim was found dead in a zero-gee chamber inside the ship. The ship is in interstellar space and traveling at around half the speed of light (the chamber is a therapeutic room artificially kept at zero gee).

My question: What would the corpse look like? Are there effects I should be aware of (for example, I assume the blood won't pool down and produce splotches)?

Thank you!

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    $\begingroup$ The speed of light is a velocity. Acceleration is the rate of change of a velocity. Do you mean that it is traveling at half the speed of light? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Sep 2 at 10:40
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch: I read that as ‘being under acceleration while travelling somewhere around half the speed of light’ - since you can’t be bang on half the speed of light due to the acceleration. It’s a mighty ambiguous sentence... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 2 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ I have edited your text to traveling instead of accelerating. If that was not what you meant, you can edit the text to be more precise. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Sep 2 at 11:20
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Some phenomena normally occurring on a corpse will be different due to the microgravity environment.

  • You won't have livor mortis as on Earth bound corpses.

    Livor mortis is a settling of the blood in the lower, or dependent, portion of the body postmortem, causing a purplish red discoloration of the skin. When the heart stops functioning and is no longer agitating the blood, heavy red blood cells sink through the serum by action of gravity. The blood travels faster in warmer conditions and slower in colder conditions. Livor mortis starts in 20–30 minutes, but is usually not observable by the human eye until two hours after death. The size of the patches increases in the next three to six hours, with maximum lividity occurring between eight and twelve hours after death.

  • Lack of natural convection might make more difficult the diffusion of molecules produces by corpse decomposition. This until enough pressure in built up to push the gases around. If you have forced ventilation around the corpse, the above doesn't apply.
  • Bodily fluids won't spill from the body, except for blood sprayed as a consequence of a wound inflicted when the person was still alive and the heart was beating.
  • Corpse cooling down might be slower: again, in lack of natural convection, the corpse will reach thermal equilibrium with the surrounding only be radiative exchange. In case of presence of forced ventilation, the above doesn't apply.

Since you don't mention exposure to vacuum of space, I am assuming that the corpse is in an otherwise life supporting room, thus I am excluding effects related to exposure to vacuum.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! and yes, the corpse is inside the ship. I have edited the above for clarity. $\endgroup$ – marmel Sep 2 at 11:26
  • $\begingroup$ Another point - would the lack of natural light have any noticeable effect? $\endgroup$ – Criggie Sep 2 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ No, the difference in light wouldn't. If you had insects involved it could as some that lay eggs on corpses are diurnal, but otherwise, no. At least I haven't seen any difference personally that could be attributed to light. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Sep 3 at 15:44

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