<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
f obs = f s 1 v c 1 + v c .

Notice that the signs are different from those of the wavelength equation.

Calculating a doppler shift

Suppose a galaxy is moving away from Earth at a speed 0.825 c . It emits radio waves with a wavelength of
0.525 m. What wavelength would we detect on Earth?


Because the galaxy is moving at a relativistic speed, we must determine the Doppler shift of the radio waves using the relativistic Doppler shift instead of the classical Doppler shift.


  1. Identify the knowns: u = 0.825 c ; λ s = 0.525 m.
  2. Identify the unknown: λ obs .
  3. Express the answer as an equation:
    λ obs = λ s 1 + v c 1 v c .
  4. Do the calculation:
    λ obs = λ s 1 + v c 1 v c = ( 0.525 m) 1 + 0.825 c c 1 0.825 c c = 1.70 m.


Because the galaxy is moving away from Earth, we expect the wavelengths of radiation it emits to be redshifted. The wavelength we calculated is 1.70 m, which is redshifted from the original wavelength of 0.525 m. You will see in Particle Physics and Cosmology that detecting redshifted radiation led to present-day understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Check Your Understanding Suppose a space probe moves away from Earth at a speed 0.350 c . It sends a radio-wave message back to Earth at a frequency of 1.50 GHz. At what frequency is the message received on Earth?

We can substitute the data directly into the equation for relativistic Doppler frequency:
f obs = f s 1 v c 1 + v c = ( 1.50 GHz) 1 0.350 c c 1 + 0.350 c c = 1.04 GHz.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

The relativistic Doppler effect has applications ranging from Doppler radar storm monitoring to providing information on the motion and distance of stars. We describe some of these applications in the exercises.


  • An observer of electromagnetic radiation sees relativistic Doppler effects if the source of the radiation is moving relative to the observer. The wavelength of the radiation is longer (called a red shift) than that emitted by the source when the source moves away from the observer and shorter (called a blue shift) when the source moves toward the observer. The shifted wavelength is described by the equation:
    λ obs = λ s 1 + v c 1 v c .

    where λ obs is the observed wavelength, λ s is the source wavelength, and v is the relative velocity of the source to the observer.

Conceptual questions

Explain the meaning of the terms “red shift” and “blue shift” as they relate to the relativistic Doppler effect.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

What happens to the relativistic Doppler effect when relative velocity is zero? Is this the expected result?

There is no measured change in wavelength or frequency in this case. The relativistic Doppler effect depends only on the relative velocity of the source and the observer, not any speed relative to a medium for the light waves.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Is the relativistic Doppler effect consistent with the classical Doppler effect in the respect that λ obs is larger for motion away?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

All galaxies farther away than about 50 × 10 6 ly exhibit a red shift in their emitted light that is proportional to distance, with those farther and farther away having progressively greater red shifts. What does this imply, assuming that the only source of red shift is relative motion?

It shows that the stars are getting more distant from Earth, that the universe is expanding, and doing so at an accelerating rate, with greater velocity for more distant stars.]

Got questions? Get instant answers now!


A highway patrol officer uses a device that measures the speed of vehicles by bouncing radar off them and measuring the Doppler shift. The outgoing radar has a frequency of 100 GHz and the returning echo has a frequency 15.0 kHz higher. What is the velocity of the vehicle? Note that there are two Doppler shifts in echoes. Be certain not to round off until the end of the problem, because the effect is small.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Questions & Answers

How does, ray of light coming form focus, behaves in concave mirror after refraction?
Bishesh Reply
Refraction does not occur in concave mirror. If refraction occurs then I don't know about this.
What is motion
Izevbogie Reply
Anything which changes itself with respect to time or surrounding
and what's time? is time everywhere same
how can u say that
do u know about black hole
Not so more
Radioactive substance
These substance create harmful radiation like alpha particle radiation, beta particle radiation, gamma particle radiation
But ask anything changes itself with respect to time or surrounding A Not any harmful radiation
explain cavendish experiment to determine the value of gravitational concept.
Celine Reply
For the question about the scuba instructor's head above the pool, how did you arrive at this answer? What is the process?
Evan Reply
as a free falling object increases speed what is happening to the acceleration
Success Reply
of course g is constant
acceleration also inc
which paper will be subjective and which one objective
normal distributiin of errors report
normal distribution of errors
photo electrons doesn't emmit when electrons are free to move on surface of metal why?
Rafi Reply
What would be the minimum work function of a metal have to be for visible light(400-700)nm to ejected photoelectrons?
Mohammed Reply
give any fix value to wave length
40 cm into change mm
Arhaan Reply
40cm=40.0×10^-2m =400.0×10^-3m =400mm. that cap(^) I have used above is to the power.
i.e. 10to the power -2 in the first line and 10 to the power -3 in the the second line.
there is mistake in my first msg correction is 40cm=40.0×10^-2m =400.0×10^-3m =400mm. sorry for the mistake friends.
40cm=40.0×10^-2m =400.0×10^-3m =400mm.
this msg is out of mistake. sorry friends​.
what is physics?
sisay Reply
why we have physics
Anil Reply
because is the study of mater and natural world
because physics is nature. it explains the laws of nature. some laws already discovered. some laws yet to be discovered.
physics is the study of non living things if we added it with biology it becomes biophysics and bio is the study of living things tell me please what is this?
physics is the study of matter,energy and their interactions
all living things are matter
why rolling friction is less than sliding friction
thanks buvanas
is this a physics forum
Physics Reply
explain l-s coupling
Depk Reply
how can we say dirac equation is also called a relativistic equation in one word
preeti Reply
what is the electronic configration of Al
usman Reply
what's the signeficance of dirac equetion.?
Sibghat Reply

Get the best University physics vol... course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, University physics volume 3. OpenStax CNX. Nov 04, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12067/1.4
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'University physics volume 3' conversation and receive update notifications?