Speed of Light Distortion Calculator |
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This calculator lets you investigate the appearance of objects traveling at high speed. It not only includes relativistic length contraction but also includes photon time-of-travel effects. The eye and brain form an image based on photons that arrive simultaneously at the eye from an object. Objects travelling at high speeds will look distorted not only because of length contraction but also because the photons arriving at the eye were emitted at different times on the moving object.

Make a drawing of an object (square, circle, star, cube,...) on graph paper and list some of the coordinates of points on your shape using parentheses and commas - for example, (1,2,5). This drawing represents the shape of an unidentified flying object (UFO) that will fly by an observer (OBS) and the observer will draw pictures of the shape of the UFO.

This calculator is restricted in the following ways:

- the UFO travels only in the positive X axis direction.
- At time = 0 nanoseconds, the origin of the UFO and OBS coordinate systems coincide.
- The UFO points may be shifted by an offset distance along the y-axis (the Y-Offset value).

To do a study of how the appearance of an object changes for an observer, set the following parameters:

- the speed of the UFO (as a fraction of the speed of light - for example, 0.9, 0.99, 0.999,...),
- the time of observation (in nanoseconds - for example, -10, -5, 0, 5, 10,...) and
- the distance (along the y-axis) between the observer and the UFO shape (for example, 10).