Relativity visualized

Visual observations in high speed flight
Flight through the Brandenburg gate (0.9 c), MPEG4 320×240 (320 kB), MPEG4 640×480 (806 kB)

Visual observations in high speed flight

Ute Kraus, January 28, 2005

High speed motion is the domain of the special theory of relativity. In this domain everyday experience fails us because we are simply too slow to ever personally experience relativistic effects. But high speed flights, i.e. flights at nearly the speed of light, can be simulated on a computer. The sights that travellers would see on such flights are amazing. Yet, they can be explained in an intuitive way and they illustrate important physical effects like aberration.


This is the translated online version of
Tempolimit: Lichtgeschwindigkeit - Beobachtungen bei Hochgeschwindigkeitsflügen
Ute Kraus
ASTRONOMIE+RAUMFAHRT im Unterricht Heft 2/2003

More: A related simulation is Through the city at nearly the speed of light with a trip through the old city center of Tübingen. Other simulations show high speed trips in space: Past Sun and Saturn (Sights that Einstein could not yet see, second section) and into a Black Hole (Destination black hole, last section but one). A supplement to section "Do-it-yourself" is an example Java program in Relativistic flight through a lattice which can be run online. Concerning the question raised in the last section about the visual appearance of fast moving objects, see Motion near the cosmic speed limit.

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Authors: Ute Kraus, Date: January 28, 2005
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