The shape of the black hole photon ring: A precise test of strong-field general relativity

Samuel E. Gralla, Alexandru Lupsasca, Daniel P. Marrone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We propose a new test of strong-field general relativity (GR) based on the universal interferometric signature of the black hole photon ring. The photon ring is a narrow ring-shaped feature, predicted by GR but not yet observed, that appears on images of sources near a black hole. It is caused by extreme bending of light within a few Schwarzschild radii of the event horizon and provides a direct probe of the unstable bound photon orbits of the Kerr geometry. We show that the precise shape of the observable photon ring is remarkably insensitive to the astronomical source profile and can therefore be used as a stringent test of GR. We forecast that a tailored space-based interferometry experiment targeting M87∗ could test the Kerr nature of the source to the sub-subpercent level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number124004
JournalPhysical Review D
Volume102
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)

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