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The Black Hole Photon Ring

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Prahar Mitra.

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 review the origin and structure of the photon ring, before discussing the prospects for its detection. 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. A space-based interferometry experiment targeting the photon ring of M87 * could test the Kerr nature of the source to the sub-percent level. I will discuss a NASA proposal to launch such a mission before the end of the decade.

This talk is part of the DAMTP Friday GR Seminar series.

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