Lupsasca: The Black Hole Photon Ring / Kivelson: The Art of Black Holes

Oct 11, 2022 - 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm

Campus, Hewlett Teaching Center, Rm. 200

Light refreshments served in Varian lobby at 3:15 p.m.

Alex Lupsasca, Vanderbilt University, and Pamela Davis Kivelson, Q-FARM Artist in Residence


What does a black hole look like? The first images of the supermassive black hole M87* display a bright ring encircling the event horizon, which appears as a dark patch in its surrounding emission. But Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts that within this image there also lies a thin "photon ring" consisting of multiple mirror images of the main emission. These images arise from photons that orbited around the black hole multiple times, probing the warped space-time geometry just outside its horizon. The photon ring carries an imprint of the strong gravity in this region and encodes fundamental properties of the black hole. A measurement of this predicted (but not yet observed) ring could provide a precise test of general relativity and will be the target of a NASA mission proposed to fly within the next decade.


A black hole distorts, stretches, and tears apart matter in its neighborhood even stars. The underlying mechanism is the strong tidal forces exerted by the gravitational field of the black hole . Using Pamela Davis Kivelson’s art as input Professor Baio Lian ( Princeton) and Research scientist Ruizhu Chen ( Stanford ) calculated the paths of light rays from these works as they encounter a black hole and thereby creating images of the ways in which photographs, and paintings of astronomical size would get transformed, lose information, break apart, and disintegrate in the vicinity of a black hole. Davis Kivelson will discuss the iterative transformative creative process that brought the Art of Black Holes to life.

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