In the 2014 movie "Interstellar" a part of the crew decides to land on "Miller's planet" (a planet orbiting the black hole at very high speeds) with a shuttle. Another crew member, Romilly, stays back on the ship.

The movie explains the big ship never actually orbits Miller's planet, but orbits the black hole on a very similar path as the planet, just keeping outside it's sphere of influence.

The crew stays on the planet for 3.4 hours, but due to time dilation effects Romilly experienced 23 years without them. And so do the people back on earth. I.e. the time dilation between Earth and the Endurance is negligible.

Why is the effect of time dilation so extreme (or rather: Why is there no time dilation between Earth and the Endurance) if the distance between the crew on the planet and the Endurance is so small?

Numbers and names taken from this timeline

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    I won't put this as an answer because I don't know the physics well enough, but I think it's because it's a spinning black hole, so the area where it affects time is smaller, which causes a more immediate effect. Kip Thorne's The Science Of Interstellar apparently explains it all, but I haven't read it. – PointlessSpike Apr 30 '15 at 11:04
  • @PointlessSpike Ah okay, I never heard about the effect of spinning black holes before. Maybe someone else can elaborate? The book sounds very interesting and I'll give it a read. Thanks! – Nijin22 Apr 30 '15 at 11:43
  • related scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/72173/… – Mithoron Apr 30 '15 at 14:02
  • It sounds like you're [falsely] assuming/expecting a linear dropoff of the time dilation effect. – Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 30 '15 at 16:36
  • @LightningRacisinObrit Yes I did expect the dropoff to be linear - this might explain my question. Do you know how the dropoff for dilation actually behaves? – Nijin22 May 1 '15 at 10:31

The answer is frame dragging. When an object with mass spins it tends to rotate (and therefor deform) space. The effect on earth is slight but noticeable with atomic clocks. The deformation of space is what leads to a Lorentz time dilation. Since the Endurance was further from the black hole it would experience less frame dragging than the crew who descended to Miller's planet which was presumably much closer to the spinning black hole.

See Wikipedia for a fuller explanation of Frame Dragging.

  • Thanks for the interesting link and the explanation! I think a mistake I made was to assume that the Endurance would have been much closer to Miller's planet that it actually was. – Nijin22 May 1 '15 at 10:38

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