Length Contraction Notes for Engineering Physics:
The animations below depict this phenomenon of length contraction. In each animation a spaceship is moving past Earth at a high speed. The spaceship would be measured to be 200 feet in length when at rest relative to the observer.
Spaceship Moving at the 10 % the Speed of Light:
Spaceship Moving at the 86.5 % the Speed of Light:
Spaceship Moving at the 99 % the Speed of Light:
Spaceship Moving at the 99.99 % the Speed of Light:
Note that the length contraction is only significant when the object is moving at relativistic speeds – i.e., speeds which are a significant fraction of the speed of light. Furthermore, note that the contraction only occurs in the dimension of the object’s motion. If the object is moving horizontally, then it is the horizontal dimension which is contracted; there would be no contraction of the height of the object. This information is summarized in the table below.