Research by Pedro Cunha of the Department of Physics
Gulbenkian award to project of the UA on Shadows of Black Holes
O investigador premiado Pedro Cunha
When taking a photography of a black hole what will be recorded on the picture? A dark spot named “shadow” that by contrast with the surrounding light emitted by celestial objects corresponds to a digital printing of the properties of the black hole. At the University of Aveiro (UA) Pedro Cunha has been studying shadows of black holes with ‘hair’, a distinct species of traditional black holes that has been discovered in 2014 by researchers of the Department of Physics. The researcher says that, besides the ‘hair cut’, these holes’ shadows may also be very different from traditional ones. Pedro Cunha’s work has just been awarded at the 2015 edition of the Gulbenkian Award for Stimulating Research (Programa de Estímulo à Investigação da Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian).

This award, says the PhD student of the Department of Physics (DFis), who also develops his work programme at the Instituto Superior Técnico, “is an excellent opportunity to develop this work and to disseminate interesting results on physics of black holes” to the general public. “It is with great pleasure that I realise that this theme is still appreciated and valued”, says Pedro Cunha, researcher at the research centre CIDMA – Centre of Research and Development in Mathematics and Applications of the UA.

But what is it we are talking about when we speak about shadows of black holes? The researcher explains: “As black holes, traditionally, do not let anything escape from their inside, not even light, in a possible photography taken of them we will get a dark spot on the picture, contrasting with the light behind emitted by remote stars or by surrounding matter”. Scientists have named that spot ‘shadow’ and this shadow is like a signature of back holes’ properties.

“The analysis of the shadow is important in astrophysics as there is a global project under way named Event Horizon Telescope with the purpose to observe directly the shadow of the black hole in the centre of our galaxy”, explains Pedro Cunha who foresees that in the next decade astrophysics will have already experimental data. “Then it will be crucial to compare them with different theoretical models to understand what we are observing”, he says.

In 2014, Carlos Herdeiro and Eugen Radu, researchers at the Departament of Physics of the UA, have published an article in the prestigious Physical Review Letters evidencing the existence of a new kind of black holes that challenge the idea that black holes are characterised only by two properties: overall mass and spinning rate.

Researchers of the group Gr@v of the University of Aveiro – a group of scientists dedicated to gravitational physics in the context of astrophysics, cosmology and high energy physics – announced then the discovery of a mechanism that enables some kind of matter  to originate a new species of black holes that, unlike traditional ones, have ‘hair’.

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