Can astrophysical black holes have “hair”?

by Carlos Herdeiro and Eugen Radu, Guest Editors of Focus Issue: Hairy Black Holes.


Carlos A. R. Herdeiro (left) got his PhD from Cambridge University (U.K.) in 2002. He is currently an assistant professor at Aveiro University, Portugal, and an FCT principal researcher. He is also the founder and coordinator of the Gravitation group at Aveiro University ( Eugen Radu (right) got his PhD from Freiburg University (Germany) in 2002. He is currently an FCT principal researcher at Aveiro University (Portugal).

One of the most recognizable statements about black holes is that they have “no-hair”. Close inspection, however, shows that this is a belief rather than a mathematically proven theorem. Moreover, decades of research on this topic have shown that, depending on what one precisely means, this statement may be simply wrong. That is, as solutions of Einstein’s equations, in a generic context, black holes are not necessarily “bald”. Then, less ambitious, but perhaps more relevant questions are: “Can astrophysical black holes have hair?” and “Can we test the existence of black hole hair with present and future astrophysical observations?”.

This CQG focus issue brings together a set of papers describing models in which black holes do have “hair”, as well as observational efforts that have the potential to assess if this is (or not) the case for astrophysical black hole candidates. This collection of research papers is by no means a faithful and complete description of all possible alternatives to the Kerr paradigm in the literature. Rather, the selected papers focus on Continue reading

Do black holes really have no hair?

Tim Johannsen

Tim Johannsen is a postdoctoral fellow at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the University of Waterloo specializing in black-hole astrophysics and tests of general relativity.

Black holes have no hair – so they say. Formally, this statement refers to several famous theorems in general relativity that were established mostly from the late 1960s to the early 1970s and are collectively known as the no-hair theorem. According to this theorem, a black hole only depends on its mass, angular momentum (or spin), and electric charge and is uniquely described by the Kerr-Newman metric. So, just about everyone would expect that astrophysical black holes are indeed the Kerr black holes of general relativity understanding that any net electric charge would quickly Continue reading