Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2011 October 18

Movie: Approaching Light Speed
Image Credit & Copyright: Antony Searle & Craig Savage (ANU)

Explanation: What would it look like to travel near the speed of light? Strange visual effects would appear as documented in the above relativistically-accurate animation. First of all, relativistic aberration would cause objects to appear to bunch up in front you. Next, the Doppler shift would cause the colors of forward objects to shift toward the blue, while things behind you would shift toward the red. Similarly, the world in front of you would seem to move unusually fast, while the world behind you would appear to slow down. Objects to the sides will appear rotated, possibly enabling surfaces normally hidden from you to become visible. Of course, since constant motion is relative, the same effects would occur were you to remain stationary and the entire world advanced toward you.

Tomorrow's picture: dragon stripes

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