Analysis and Visualization of Exact Solutions to Einstein's Field Equations
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Einstein's field equations are extremely difficult to solve, and when solved, the solutions are even harder to understand. In this thesis, two analysis tools are developed to explore and visualize the curvature of spacetimes. The first tool is based on a thorough examination of observer independent curvature invariants constructed from different contractions of the Riemann curvature tensor. These invariants are analyzed through their gradient fields, and attention is given to the resulting flow and critical points. Furthermore, we propose a Newtonian analog to some general relativistic invariants based on the underlying physical meaning of these invariants, where they represent the cumulative tidal and frame-dragging effects of the spacetime. This provides us with a novel and intuitive tool to compare Newtonian gravitational fields to exact solutions of Einstein's field equations on equal footing. We analyze the obscure Curzon-Chazy solution using the new approach, and reveal rich structure that resembles the Newtonian gravitational field of a non-rotating ring, as it has been suspected for decades. Next, we examine the important Kerr solution, which describes the gravitational field of rotating black holes. We discover that the observable part of the geometry outside the black hole's event horizon depends significantly on its angular momentum. The fields representing the cumulative tidal and frame-dragging forces change qualitatively at seven specific values of the dimensionless spin parameter of the black hole. The second tool we develop in this thesis is the accurate construction of the Penrose conformal diagrams. These diagrams are a valuable tool to explore the causal structure of spacetimes, where the entire spacetime is compactified to a finite size, and the coordinate choice is fixed such that light rays are straight lines on the diagram. However, for most spacetimes these diagrams can only be constructed as a qualitative guess, since their null geodesics cannot be solved. We developed an algorithm to construct very accurate Penrose diagrams based on numeric solutions to the null geodesics, and applied it to the McVittie metric. These diagrams confirmed the long held suspicion that this spacetime does indeed describe a black hole embedded in an isotropic universe.