9/24/2021 General Relativity Seminar

09/24/2021 9:30 am - 10:30 am

Title: On the Observable Shape of Black Hole Photon Rings

Abstract: The photon ring is a narrow ring-shaped feature, predicted by General Relativity 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. I will argue 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 strong-field General Relativity. In practice, near-term interferometric observations may be limited to the visibility amplitude alone, which contains incomplete shape information: for convex curves, the amplitude only encodes the set of projected diameters (or “widths”) of the shape. I will describe the freedom in reconstructing a convex curve from its widths, giving insight into the photon ring shape information probed by technically plausible future astronomical measurements.