Black Hole Based Tests of General Relativity

Kent Yagi and Leo C. Stein

2016 Class. Quantum Grav. 33 054001 [arXiv:1602.02413] [doi:10.1088/0264-9381/33/5/054001]

This is an invited review paper which was solicited for the CQG Focus Issue Black holes and fundamental fields, guest edited by Paolo Pani and Helvi Witek. Paolo and Helvi, thanks for giving me and Kent the opportunity to contribute!

General relativity has passed all Solar System experiments and neutron star based tests, such as binary pulsar observations, with flying colors. A more exotic arena for testing general relativity is in systems that contain one or more black holes. Black holes are the most compact objects in the universe, providing probes of the strongest-possible gravitational fields. We are motivated to study strong-field gravity since many theories give large deviations from general relativity only at large field strengths, while recovering the weak-field behavior. In this article, we review how one can probe general relativity and various alternative theories of gravity by using electromagnetic waves from a black hole with an accretion disk, and gravitational waves from black hole binaries. We first review model-independent ways of testing gravity with electromagnetic/gravitational waves from a black hole system. We then focus on selected examples of theories that extend general relativity in rather simple ways. Some important characteristics of general relativity include (i) only tensor gravitational degrees of freedom, (ii) the graviton is massless, (iii) no quadratic or higher curvatures in the action, and (iv) the theory is 4 dimensional. Altering a characteristic leads to a different extension of general relativity: (i) scalar-tensor theories, (ii) massive gravity theories, (iii) quadratic gravity, and (iv) theories with large extra dimensions. Within each theory, we describe black hole solutions, their properties, and current and projected constraints on each theory using black hole-based tests of gravity. We close this review by listing some of the open problems in model-independent tests and within each specific theory.