Testing the no-hair theorem with event horizon telescope observations of sagittarius A*

Avery E. Broderick, Tim Johannsen, Abraham Loeb, Dimitrios Psaltis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

175 Scopus citations


The advent of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a millimeter-wave very long baseline interferometric array, has enabled spatially resolved studies of the subhorizon-scale structure for a handful of supermassive black holes. Among these, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), presents the largest angular cross section. Thus far, these studies have focused on measurements of the black hole spin and the validation of low-luminosity accretion models. However, a critical input in the analysis of EHT data is the structure of the black hole spacetime, and thus these observations provide the novel opportunity to test the applicability of the Kerr metric to astrophysical black holes. Here we present the first simulated images of a radiatively inefficient accretion flow (RIAF) around Sgr A* employing a quasi-Kerr metric that contains an independent quadrupole moment in addition to the mass and spin that fully characterize a black hole in general relativity. We show that these images can be significantly different from the images of an RIAF around a Kerr black hole with the same spin and demonstrate the feasibility of testing the no-hair theorem by constraining the quadrupolar deviation from the Kerr metric with existing EHT data. Equally important, we find that the disk inclination and spin orientation angles are robust to the inclusion of additional parameters, providing confidence in previous estimations assuming the Kerr metric based on EHT observations. However, at present, the limits on potential modifications of the Kerr metric remain weak.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 20 2014


  • Galaxy: center
  • accretion, accretion disks
  • black hole physics
  • gravitation
  • submillimeter: general
  • techniques: interferometric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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