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 MPEG players 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 project.

Current average number of accesses to this 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 is a free, on-line library housing source codes of all sizes that are of interest to astronomers and astrophysicists.

Robert Nemiroff (nemiroff @at@ mtu .dot. edu)