BlackHoleCam: Fundamental physics of the galactic center

C. Goddi, H. Falcke, M. Kramer, L. Rezzolla, C. Brinkerink, T. Bronzwaer, J. R.J. Davelaar, R. Deane, M. De Laurentis, G. Desvignes, R. P. Eatough, F. Eisenhauer, R. Fraga-Encinas, C. M. Fromm, S. Gillessen, A. Grenzebach, S. Issaoun, M. Janßen, R. Konoplya, T. P. KrichbaumR. Laing, K. Liu, R. S. Lu, Y. Mizuno, M. Moscibrodzka, C. Müller, H. Olivares, O. Pfuhl, O. Porth, F. Roelofs, E. Ros, K. Schuster, R. Tilanus, P. Torne, I. Van Bemmel, H. J. Van Langevelde, N. Wex, Z. Younsi, A. Zhidenko

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


Einstein's General theory of relativity (GR) successfully describes gravity. Although GR has been accurately tested in weak gravitational fields, it remains largely untested in the general strong field cases. One of the most fundamental predictions of GR is the existence of black holes (BHs). After the recent direct detection of gravitational waves by LIGO, there is now near conclusive evidence for the existence of stellar-mass BHs. In spite of this exciting discovery, there is not yet direct evidence of the existence of BHs using astronomical observations in the electromagnetic spectrum. Are BHs observable astrophysical objects? Does GR hold in its most extreme limit or are alternatives needed? The prime target to address these fundamental questions is in the center of our own Milky Way, which hosts the closest and best-constrained supermassive BH candidate in the universe, Sagittarius A∗(Sgr A∗). Three different types of experiments hold the promise to test GR in a strong-field regime using observations of Sgr A∗with new-generation instruments. The first experiment consists of making a standard astronomical image of the synchrotron emission from the relativistic plasma accreting onto Sgr A∗. This emission forms a "shadow" around the event horizon cast against the background, whose predicted size (∼50μas) can now be resolved by upcoming very long baseline radio interferometry experiments at mm-waves such as the event horizon telescope (EHT). The second experiment aims to monitor stars orbiting Sgr A∗with the next-generation near-infrared (NIR) interferometer GRAVITY at the very large telescope (VLT). The third experiment aims to detect and study a radio pulsar in tight orbit about Sgr A∗using radio telescopes (including the Atacama large millimeter array or ALMA). The BlackHoleCam project exploits the synergy between these three different techniques and contributes directly to them at different levels. These efforts will eventually enable us to measure fundamental BH parameters (mass, spin, and quadrupole moment) with sufficiently high precision to provide fundamental tests of GR (e.g. testing the no-hair theorem) and probe the spacetime around a BH in any metric theory of gravity. Here, we review our current knowledge of the physical properties of Sgr A∗as well as the current status of such experimental efforts towards imaging the event horizon, measuring stellar orbits, and timing pulsars around Sgr A∗. We conclude that the Galactic center provides a unique fundamental-physics laboratory for experimental tests of BH accretion and theories of gravity in their most extreme limits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1730001
JournalInternational Journal of Modern Physics D
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • General relativity
  • black holes
  • high energy astrophysical phenomena
  • pulsars
  • tests of general relativity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematical Physics
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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