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As stated on a work-in-progress document for the phenomena I’m referring to as “Blackout Flares”:

A Blackout Flare is a short-lived, instantaneous warping of shadows produced by an object moving faster than the speed of light, thus making it an equivalent to a sonic boom. When a Blackout Flare occurs, shadows extend onwards, erupting in the direction opposite of the object moving faster than light: if the object is traveling west the shadows will erupt east, and vice versa. The radius in which shadows are affected by a Blackout Flare is dependent on how much faster than light the object is traveling. If a Blackout Flare occurs in space, light that had been in the radius will disappear and instantly reappear. It is worth noting that a human eye is unable to detect the warping of light and shadows caused by a Blackout Flare, due to the speed at which the shadows return to normal being far faster than the human eye can detect.

More simply, a blackout flare is visually the inverse effect of what is seen in shows like Star Trek and Star Wars when a spacecraft accelerates past light speed: instead of stars visually extending into lines, the darkness around the stars engulfs them.

But what about an object accelerating past light speed could cause such a visual phenomenon?

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    $\begingroup$ +1 to any question that asks, "what about Real Life can I use to model my imaginary world?" rather than "Is this possible? If so, how?" $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jun 20, 2023 at 4:14

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Here's how I would explain it:

As an object exceeds the light threshold, the 'Shadow' that it creates by it's passing, can only move at the Speed of Light, therefore as the object is travelling faster than it, the shadow 'appears' to move in the opposite direction.

This is due to the relative speeds of the Object vs the Shadow.

Now, if my understanding of relativity physics is correct, this shouldn't work, but then FTL breaks relativity physics, so I'm going with it.

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Well first of all you dont need to go faster than the speed of light, with some "exotic" types of matters, warp drives would be possible within the framework of general relativity as several physicists theoretized, basically warping space (the metric of space) so that there is a much shorter path to the destination in the warped spacetime, which the ship then takes. (correct me if im wrong, im not really fit regarding GR)

Also, the warping of spacetime can bend light and change its frequency (for example if light escapes a massive body it is redshifted due to energy conservation), so each of the warp bubbles would certainly come with its own optical spectacle (at least when you are in the distorted region of space), how they would look exactly I can't tell, but the appearance of shadows seems very plausible/achievable if there is mostly visible light around as for this the frequency of the light has to just be distorted a little so it leaves the visible spectrum which is very narrow, so a warp bubble turning visible light invisible is not that far fetched.

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  • $\begingroup$ Also, the warping of spacetime can bend light and change its frequency... only if the light originates from the distorted region. Light entering the region from "flat" space, then exiting the region back into "flat" space will be blue- then red-shifted by equal amounts, and the frequency stays the same. $\endgroup$
    – BMF
    Jun 21, 2023 at 0:20
  • $\begingroup$ Thats what i kinda tought as well, but if you consider things like gravitational waves it seems entirely possible that (I) such things arise during "warping" and (II) "add energy" to the light. A gravitational wave can make matter move, why shouldnt it shift light then? $\endgroup$
    – KGM
    Jun 21, 2023 at 2:09
  • $\begingroup$ if we're at the point where gravitational waves can add significant energy to photons (and the reverse process is possible), you're probably looking at "supermassive black holes colliding" levels of distortion. But I guess it's possible. $\endgroup$
    – BMF
    Jun 21, 2023 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ Probably you're right, actually this is an issue with incorporating "warp drives" in stories in general, that for at least some of them, you need ridiculous amounts of mass. So the worldbuilding issue would probably be how to explain where all that mass is gotten from (and how its transported etc.). $\endgroup$
    – KGM
    Jun 21, 2023 at 12:56
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Cherenkov radiation

what you describe is already very close to Cherenkov radiation.

Cherenkov radiation is essentially a sonic boom but for light. The particles are moving faster than the speed of light of a medium. the medium is asymmetrically polarized by the particle producing light, because the particle is moving too fast forcing the wavefront to bunch up like a sonic boom. the light is emitted in the direction of the particle in some materials in the opposite in other, depending on their electrical properties. What if the particle is traveling so fast the polarization is not just asymmetric but asymptotic or even inverted, not creating light but absorbing it, or more likely canceling all light out.

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