A Parametric Model for the Shapes of Black Hole Shadows in Non-Kerr Spacetimes

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41 Scopus citations


The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) is taking the first images of black holes resolved at horizon scales to measure their shadows and probe accretion physics. A promising avenue for testing the hypothesis that astrophysical black holes are described by the Kerr solution to Einstein's equations is to compare the size and shape of the shadow a black hole casts on the surrounding emission to the predictions of the Kerr metric. We develop here an efficient parametric framework to perform this test. We carry out ray-tracing simulations for several parameterized non-Kerr metrics to create a large data set of non-Kerr shadows that probe the allowed parameter space for the free parameters of each metric. We then perform principal components analysis (PCA) on this set of shadows and show that only a small number of components are needed to accurately reconstruct all shadows within the set. We further show that the amplitude of the PCA components are smoothly related to the free parameters in the metrics and, therefore, that these PCA components can be fit to EHT observations in order to place constraints on the free parameters of these metrics that will help quantify any potential deviations from the Kerr solution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 10 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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