Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Black hole traveling near the speed of light

  1. Apr 15, 2014 #1
    Suppose a black hole travels at something like v = 0.999999999c relative to some observer. Does the black hole's event horizon becomes length contracted, thus appearing to turn into a black disk?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 15, 2014 #2

    Drakkith

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Ohh, interesting question. I don't know, but I would think so.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2014
  4. Apr 15, 2014 #3

    Simon Bridge

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    2016 Award

    That would be the same as asking what the geometry of the event horizon would be from the POV of an observer travelling relativistically wrt it.

    Note: an observer stationary wrt a large sphere would see the sphere as a disk.
    Observe: Sun, Moon, Planets, near starts etc: all look like disks.

    Measure the diameter, in different directions re travel direction, as you pass one at speed, and they look like ellipses.
    Very fast and you get a thin ellipse.

    Aside: artistic interpretations aside, BHs are unlikely to look black.
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/b...you-dont-know-about-black-holes/#.U03yjFT_RXo
     
  5. Apr 15, 2014 #4

    PeterDonis

    User Avatar
    2016 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    But this reasoning doesn't apply to a black hole's horizon, because there's no way to measure the diameter; it doesn't have one.

    Also, the usual interpretation of length contraction depends on the "world tube" of the object being composed of timelike curves; different frames take "slices" out of the world tube at different angles, so the slices have different geometries. But the "world tube" of the event horizon is composed of null curves, not timelike curves; so I'm not sure you can take "slices" of the tube the same way you would with an ordinary object.

    Finally, there's no way to actually observe the "geometry" of the horizon itself, since light can't escape from it; see below.

    What doesn't look black in these scenarios isn't the hole's horizon; it's stuff falling into the hole but still outside the horizon, which can radiate intensely as it falls in. The horizon itself can't be seen, since outgoing light at the horizon stays at the horizon forever, never escaping.
     
  6. Apr 16, 2014 #5

    Simon Bridge

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    2016 Award

    Yep, which was the reason for including the link - in the event there was nothing falling in, the hole would probably occlude stars ... but there would also be significant lensing.

    All this means that we have to be careful talking about the geometry of a black hole even horizon.
    I suspect that OP is imagining that you can see it... that it's like a black ball, and that passing a length-contracted ball is like passing a flattened disk.

    But need feedback to clarify the question.

    I'd rate it as asking what would be a sensible way of treating relativistic length contraction for a black hole.
    Presumably from an observer far enough away for the terms to make sense.
     
  7. Apr 16, 2014 #6

    WannabeNewton

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    In classical GR, a black hole is quite literally space-time geometry with an event horizon generated by null curves. It isn't a time-like object i.e. the concept of length contraction doesn't apply. That being said there are a myriad of optical effects that can occur due to black holes so that might be of interest to you.
     
  8. Apr 16, 2014 #7

    martinbn

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Probably I am confused about something very basic but it seems perfectly ok to take different time slices of the event horizon. The fact that it is null generated is not a problem. This would imply that the cross section area will be the same (for a stationary black hole) for all observers. So it seems natural to ask about geometric properties other than area as well.
     
  9. Jun 21, 2015 #8
    When I thought of this possibility I was more interested in the ramifications for the gravity of the black hole combined with the relativistic mass increase of the black hole as it approaches c. What effect would this have on the imaginary time which would be experienced by an object falling into a black hole itself moving at relativistic speed?. Would there be two imaginary times to consider or would they cancel out?
     
  10. Jun 21, 2015 #9
    The black hole is approaching a speed of c in relation to what?
     
  11. Jun 22, 2015 #10

    PeterDonis

    User Avatar
    2016 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    Relativistic mass is not the source of gravity in GR. The mass of the black hole, as far as its gravity is concerned, is an invariant. The motion of a test object relative to the black hole does affect how the hole's gravity curves its trajectory, but there's no useful way to view that as an effect of "relativistic mass increase" of the black hole.

    An object falling into a black hole doesn't experience "imaginary time"; it experiences perfectly normal time flow. The "imaginary time" you are thinking of is not something physical; it's an artifact of choosing particular coordinates.
     
  12. Jun 22, 2015 #11

    A.T.

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    But how does the Schwarzschild geometry outside the horizon look like in a frame where the BH is moving fast? Or, alternatively the Schwarzschild geometry of an massive star, that isn't a BH yet. Is it similar to a contracted version of the usual Schwarzschild geometry?
     
  13. Jun 22, 2015 #12
    If the black hole were accelerating toward earth near the speed of light and a device were dropped into the front of it which attempted to send out a signal; is it possible that the red shifting of the signal might be cancelled by the blue shifting of the same signal as it hurled toward us at 99.9999% of c.? In other words: within the dark star's inertial frame it would be red shifted but what about outside the accelerating frame? My thinking was that general relativity does not distinguish between the body in accelerated motion and the body hovering outside a gravitationla well. If so, and if the moving black hole system were taken as an inertial frame, then could an obserrver at rest with respect to the black hole see deeper into the black hole than if it were stationary?
     
  14. Jun 22, 2015 #13

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Read the OP more carefully:

    "...relative to some observer..."
     
  15. Jun 22, 2015 #14

    ShayanJ

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I'm confused here. Its true that an EH is a null surface but that applies to non-moving BHs as well. So it seems to me its not related to the state of the motion of the BH.
    Also when you say a curve is null, it means that the corresponding "thing" that the curve is describing the motion of, is moving at the speed of light. I seem to remember that you once said the EH moves radially outward at the speed of light or something like this. But this isn't the motion we're talking about because this applies to non-moving BHs as well. Also if a BH is moving, I think we prefer it moves slower than light. So it seems to me the worldtube of the EH can't be composed of null curves.
    I think my problem is that, here we're talking about a feature of spacetime geometry moving, not an object. That just seems weird!
     
  16. Jun 22, 2015 #15

    pervect

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Something vaguely like that happens - as the black hole approaches "c", the space-time geometry approaches a plane wave solution called the Aichelberg-sexl ultraboost. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aichelburg–Sexl_ultraboost Which is basically disc-like, in that it's basically a plane wave. It's definitely not spherically symmetrical.

    Lorentz contraction isn't quite applicable though - the distance between a timelike observer and a null worldline (like a light ray or the event horizon of a black hole) one follows a different contraction law than the familiar Lorentz contraction. This later issue comes up a lot in questions like "what is the distance to the event horizon". Basically a space-like interval contracts with velocity by the factor ##\gamma##, the interval between a space-like and a time-like observer follows the relativistic doppler shift law ##k = \sqrt{\frac{1 + \beta}{1-\beta}}##.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2015
  17. Jun 22, 2015 #16

    WannabeNewton

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    It's the center of mass of the black hole, relative to some asymptotic Lorentz frame, that moves at subluminal speeds; the center of mass is simply the conserved charge associated with boosts so it is easily defined in terms of the ADM 4-momentum. The worldtube of the event horizon is still generated by a null congruence.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2015
  18. Jun 22, 2015 #17

    WannabeNewton

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    There is no unique choice of space-like section so geometric quantities defined in this way would not be intrinsic to the black hole but instead would have some gauge freedom. Now this is all fine if all we're concerned with is geometric properties of the event horizon relative to some family of observers. However in general such space-like sections would not correspond to simultaneity surfaces of any family of observers so it isn't clear how one would measure geometric quantities calculated from them.

    But if we go the other way, wherein you give me a family of observers and ask for geometric quantities derived from space-like sections which are simultaneity surfaces of this family, then we would have to restrict ourselves to those 4-velocity fields whose local Lorentz frames are non-singular on the horizon and whose vorticity vanishes e.g. the family of observers freely falling radially from infinity. In this case I do not see an issue with calculating geometric properties of the event horizon relative to said space-like sections.
     
  19. Jun 23, 2015 #18
    Would we find black holes moving near the speed of light in nature? Orbiting very close together or blasted out of a violent galactic nucleous? Or is it just a thought experiment?
     
  20. Jun 23, 2015 #19

    Drakkith

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I think its a thought experiment. I cant imagine how a solar mass size object could be accelerated to such speeds.
     
  21. Jun 23, 2015 #20

    Ibix

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Depends what you mean. From the perspective of a black hole, it's a cinch that there are particles passing it at very high fractions of c. From the point of view of the particles, it's the black hole that is moving at high speed, and the point of relativity is that either perspective is valid. So in that sense, yes, there are billions upon billions of particles encountering black holes moving at substantial fractions of c all the time. However, I tend to agree with Drakkith that we're unlikely to be able to see this directly ourselves.

    It would be possible - at least in principle - to build a probe and send it whizzing past a black hole at high speed and see what happens. Don't hold your breath, though. That kind of thing is well beyond our technology, and it's a long way to the nearest black hole, anyway.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook