Christopher Nolan’s Oscar nominated sci-fi blockbuster “Interstellar,” praised by the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Michio Kaku for its scientifically accurate depiction of a spinning black hole, has provided crucial insights into the workings of supermassive black holes. A new paper, published Friday in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity, by the movie’s visual effects team and its science consultant, provides details of the computer code used to bring Interstellar’s black hole and wormhole to life and explains how the innovative code led to new scientific discoveries.
In the movie, the visual effects team from the London-based studio Double Negative modeled the black hole, dubbed “Gargantua,” by tracing the paths of light beams as opposed to keeping track of individual light rays, IOP Publishing, the journal's publisher, said in a statement. This was done to avoid flickering of stars and other celestial bodies onscreen, which would have been the case if the team had used the traditional way to depict a black hole.
“This new approach to making images will be of great value to astrophysicists like me,” Kip Thorne, Interstellar's scientific consultant and a former professor of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology, said in the statement. “We, too, need smooth images.”
The resulting images also give some idea of what a person would see if they were orbiting a black hole.
The team also explained how they used the computer code called Double Negative Gravitational Renderer (DNGR) to visualize the caustics, which refers to the region around a massive body warped by gravitation.
“All of the caustics, except one, wrap around the sky many times when the camera is close to the black hole,” Oliver James, the study's co-author and chief scientist at Double Negative, said in the statement. “This sky-wrapping is caused by the black hole’s spin, dragging space into a whirling motion around itself like the air in a whirling tornado, and stretching the caustics around the black hole many times.”
The findings of the study and the physics inspired by the movie can be viewed in the following video released by IOP Publishing: