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December 22, 2020 @ 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Title: Photon Ring Autocorrelations
Abstract: In the presence of a black hole, light sources connect to observers along multiple paths. As a result, observed brightness fluctuations must be correlated across different times and positions in black hole images. Photons that execute multiple orbits around the black hole appear near a critical curve in the observer sky, giving rise to the photon ring. In the talk I will describe the structure of a Kerr black hole’s photon ring. I will then discuss a novel observable we have recently proposed: the two-point correlation function of intensity fluctuations on the ring. I will describe its analytic computation within a toy model of stochastic emission, and show that it exhibits a universal, self-similar pattern consisting of multiple peaks of identical shape: while the profile of each peak encodes statistical properties of fluctuations in the source, the locations and heights of the peaks are determined purely by the black hole parameters. Measuring these peaks would demonstrate the existence of the photon ring without resolving its thickness, and would provide estimates of black hole mass and spin. I will discuss some prospective extensions and generalizations, and argue that with regular monitoring over sufficiently long timescales, this measurement could be possible via interferometric imaging with modest improvements to the Event Horizon Telescope.