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Plus, Indeed

by M.G. Siegler


Why Doesn't the Black Hole Image Look Like the One From Interstellar?

If you're anything like me, you immediately put on Christopher Nolan's brilliant (though divisive at the time of release -- it will stand the test of time) Interstellar to celebrate this news. But that led to more questions -- Ryan F. Mandelbaum sought some answers:

They’re not as different as you might expect. “The image in Interstellar is almost correct,” Kazunori Akiyama, postdoctoral researcher at the MIT Haystack Observatory who led the team that created the EHT’s image, explained to Gizmodo.
Perhaps most notably, the Interstellar black hole has a thin streak of matter around its center, which M87's black hole seems to lack. That’s a simple difference to explain—initial evidence shows that we’re viewing M87's black hole from closer to one of the poles, rather than from head on. The disk of matter around M87 would be obscured by the observation angle, Akiyama explained. Take Saturn’s rings—they don’t cross the planet when you look at it from the top or bottom.

A "simple difference to explain," you see. Also:

“Christopher Nolan omitted that brightening because the human eye would likely not be able to discern the brightness differences on the two sides of the hole when the overall brightness is so extreme,” Kip Thorne, Cal Tech physicist and advisor on the film Interstellar, told Gizmodo. Nolan did take some artistic license with the appearance of the film’s black hole, as we’ve previously explained, including things like lens flare.

Best to keep Kip Thorne away from J.J. Abrams...


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