Virtual Trips to
Black Holes and Neutron Stars
by Robert Nemiroff
(Michigan Technological University)
Ever wonder what it would look like to travel to a black hole? A neutron
star? If so, you might find this page interesting. Here you will find
descriptions and MPEG movies that take you on such exciting trips. These
movies are scientifically accurate computer animations made with strict
adherence to Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. The descriptions are
written to be understandable on a variety of levels - from the casually
curious to the professionally inquisitive. It is hoped that students from
grade school to graduate school will find these virtual trips educational.
"A stimulating, relativistically accurate trip!"
- Kip Thorne
The Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics,
California Institute of Technology,
Author of "Black Holes and Time Warps - Einstein's Outrageous Legacy"
Earth if compressed to ultracompact density and viewed from the photon sphere.
Written Description of Visible Distortion Effects
Below is a published paper understandable to undergraduates:
"Visual Distortions Near a Black Hole and Neutron Star,"
Nemiroff, R. J. 1993, American Journal of Physics, 61, 619
Information and software on
are freely available from other sites.
Fantasy MPEG movie to a black hole
Gravity causes stars to have multiple images.
Two images of the constellation of Orion are particularly apparent.
Still curious about black hole properties? Here Matt McIrvin answered some
frequently asked questions
about black holes to the internet newsgroup sci.physics.
Fantasy MPEG movie to a neutron star
The surface of the Earth has been mapped onto the neutron star
to better allow the observer to follow the visual distortion effects caused
by the high gravitational field.
Fantasy MPEG movie to an ultracompact star
Note the color changes for the stars and surface as they get redshifted
and blueshifted. The constellation Orion is visible in most sequences -
can you find it?
All movie frames, text, and computer codes are written, edited, and
copyrighted by Robert J. Nemiroff in 1994 and 1995 unless noted otherwise.
They are not to be disseminated without his written permission. NASA is
gratefully acknowledged for providing computer support for this educational
Current average number of accesses to this or a mirror page
per day: about 300.
Three other WWW astronomy education projects I help coordinate:
Astronomy Picture of the Day,
Great Debates in Astronomy held at the Smithsonian
in Washington, DC,
The Astrophysics Source Code Library (ASCL or ASCL.net)
is a free, on-line library housing source codes of all sizes
that are of interest to astrophysicists. All ASCL.net source
codes have been used to generate results published in or
submitted to a refereed journal.