Black hole photon rings beyond general relativity
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We investigate whether photon ring observations in black hole imaging are able to distinguish between the Kerr black hole in general relativity and alternative black holes that deviate from Kerr. Certain aspects of photon rings have been argued to be robust observables in very-long-baseline interferometry black hole observations which carry imprints of the underlying spacetime. The photon ring shape, as well as its Lyapunov exponent (which encodes the narrowing of successive photon subrings), are detailed probes of the underlying geometry; measurements thereof have been argued to provide a strong null test of general relativity and the Kerr metric. However, a more complicated question is whether such observations of the photon ring properties can distinguish between Kerr and alternative black holes. We provide a first answer to this question by calculating photon rings of the Johannsen, Rasheed-Larsen, and Manko-Novikov black holes. We find that large deviations from Kerr and large observer inclinations are needed to obtain measurable differences in the photon ring shape. In other words, the Kerr photon ring shape appears to be the universal shape even for deviating black holes at low inclinations. On the other hand, the Lyapunov exponent shows more marked variations for deviations from the Kerr metric. Our analysis lays out the groundwork to determine deviations from the Kerr spacetime in photon rings that are potentially detectable by future observing missions.
CitationStaelens, S.; Mayerson, D.R.; Bacchini, F.; Ripperda, B.; Küchler, L. (2023). Black hole photon rings beyond general relativity. , Physical Review D, Vol. 107, Issue 12, A124026, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevD.107.124026.