An object at relativistic speed is seen as both rotated and distorted when it is large or close by so that it subtends a large solid angle. This is a consequence of the aberration effect and is obtained by purely geometric considerations. In this paper it is pointed out and illustrated that a photorealistic image of such an object would actually be dominated by the Doppler and searchlight effects, which would be so prominent as to render the geometric apparent shape effectively invisible.
Brightness perceived by the human eye
Appendix: Lorentz transformation of the specific intensity
Supplement (movies and color image)
Published in The American Journal of Physics, vol. 68 (1), January 2000, pp 56-60.
This article can be downloaded in PDF-format here:
Brightness and color of rapidly moving objects: The visual appearance of a large sphere revisited (152 kB).
Contact: Would you like to be notified of new contributions or to send us a message?
Survey: How do you use this site and how would you like it to develop?