The physics of interstellar

1. Gravitational Lensing by Spinning Black Holes in Astrophysics, and in the Movie Interstellar
Oliver James, Eugenie von Tunzelmann, Paul Franklin, Kip S. Thorneblackhole1Interstellar is the first Hollywood movie to attempt depicting a black hole as it would actually be seen by somebody nearby. For this we developed a code called DNGR (Double Negative Gravitational Renderer) to solve the equations for ray-bundle (light-beam) propagation through the curved spacetime of a spinning (Kerr) black hole, and to render IMAX-quality, rapidly changing images. Our ray-bundle techniques were crucial for achieving IMAX-quality smoothness without flickering.
This paper has four purposes: (i) To describe DNGR for physicists and CGI practitioners . (ii) To present the equations we use, when the camera is in arbitrary motion at an arbitrary location near a Kerr black hole, for mapping light sources to camera images via elliptical ray bundles. (iii) To describe new insights, from DNGR, into gravitational lensing when the camera is near the spinning black hole, rather than far away as in almost all prior studies. (iv) To describe how the images of the black hole Gargantua and its accretion disk, in the movie \emph{Interstellar}, were generated with DNGR. There are no new astrophysical insights in this accretion-disk section of the paper, but disk novices may find it pedagogically interesting, and movie buffs may find its discussions of Interstellar interesting…

2. Visualizing Interstellar’s Wormhole
Oliver James, Eugenie von Tunzelmann, Paul Franklin, Kip S. Thornewormhole1Christopher Nolan’s science fiction movie Interstellar offers a variety of opportunities for students in elementary courses on general relativity theory. This paper describes such opportunities, including: (i) At the motivational level, the manner in which elementary relativity concepts underlie the wormhole visualizations seen in the movie. (ii) At the briefest computational level, instructive calculations with simple but intriguing wormhole metrics, including, e.g., constructing embedding diagrams for the three-parameter wormhole that was used by our visual effects team and Christopher Nolan in scoping out possible wormhole geometries for the movie. (iii) Combining the proper reference frame of a camera with solutions of the geodesic equation, to construct a light-ray-tracing map backward in time from a camera’s local sky to a wormhole’s two celestial spheres. (iv) Implementing this map, for example in Mathematica, Maple or Matlab, and using that implementation to construct images of what a camera sees when near or inside a wormhole. (v) With the student’s implementation, exploring how the wormhole’s three parameters influence what the camera sees—which is precisely how Christopher Nolan, using our implementation, chose the parameters for \emph{Interstellar}’s wormhole. (vi) Using the student’s implementation, exploring the wormhole’s Einstein ring, and particularly the peculiar motions of star images near the ring; and exploring what it looks like to travel through a wormhole…
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Read also: Interstellar’s true black hole too confusing



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