In the movie Interstellar, Miller's planet is an ocean planet orbiting extremely close to a black hole. The ridiculous tidal effects caused by the black hole cause the planet's water to concentrate into mile-high super tsunamis.

Is something like this possible in real life? Is the passage of time slowed, the distance Miller's Planet is to such a large black hole, the height of the waves, and the amount of light the planet receives in the movie all potentially possible?

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    $\begingroup$ "The ridiculous tidal effects caused by the black hole cause the planet's water to concentrate into mile-high super tsunamis." I never got the impression that Gargantua was claimed to be responsible for the waves. I assumed that this was simply the nature of such a world. Or at the very least, that the film thinks this would be the case. $\endgroup$ Nov 6, 2017 at 5:52
  • $\begingroup$ I haven't watched that movie but I'm pretty sure gravitational forces that strong would just rip the planet away. $\endgroup$
    – Khris
    Nov 6, 2017 at 6:03
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    $\begingroup$ I think it is called tidal bore not tidal wave or mega tusnami, if I read his mind correctly the planet is tidal locked by the enormous tidal force from Gargantua and the planet becomes a ruby ball shape. Now imagine the planet rocks back and forth periodically under immerse tidal force and as a result it creates mega tidal bore, he actually calculate the oscillation of the rocking as depicted in the movie (hint: it is NOT 100% tidally locked so expect some residual spin) ;D $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Nov 6, 2017 at 7:47
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    $\begingroup$ Question is about someone else's fictional world, not the OP's own. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Mar 4, 2021 at 3:32

2 Answers 2


Kip Thorne thinks so. He was the scientific adviser for the movie Interstellar.

About the planets orbiting Gargantua he said the following:

This business of the enormous time differential between one of the planets orbiting very close to Gargantua and the flow of time back on Earth – the problem seemed to be that no planet could endure the resulting gravitational forces. This was something that even I thought was impossible, intuitively, until I went and slept on it and did a few hours of calculations. I came to the conclusion that in fact it is possible. The black hole needs to be spinning very fast, but is possible for the spin to be fast enough for a planet in the necessarily close, stable, circular orbit to not be ripped apart. I can’t fault anyone for saying, “Hey, that’s not possible,” without having first having the benefit of my book! Unless it’s someone who is very deep into general relativity and who I would’ve expected to go do the calculations!

Source: Parsing the Science of Interstellar with physicist Kip thorne

Thorne also wrote the book, The Science of Interstellar (2014). Copies available in all good bookstores and libraries. There is also a documentary about the movie's science which can be found here. I believe it is also an extra on the DVD.

Yes the science of Miller's Planet is plausible and possible. Kip Thorne is one of the top physicists working in the area of general relativity. You don't get better than that.

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    $\begingroup$ Still, this answers only half of the question - the distance and time. Does not answer other two ¼s - the amount of light (and implicitly color shift of said light) and the height of waves. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Nov 6, 2017 at 9:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Mołot The question asks if what is shown in the film possible. Considering the quality of scientific advice provided, the answer has to be, by implication, yes, that is covered. That also covers the colour shift -- implicitly. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Nov 6, 2017 at 11:43
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    $\begingroup$ Possible, but certainly not plausible. The black hole has to be spinning really fast, but maybe supermassive black holes do that sometimes. But this one has to be extremely old for the x-ray-emitting accretion disk to have cooled down to visible light (because it looks better on film and because otherwise the planet would be irradiated), but we'll say that the wormhole emerges considerably later in the future, and the FX team forgot to paint the stars red. But the planet has to been put there recently, so it can still wobble and create the waves. That's one too many ridiculous coincidence. $\endgroup$
    – Eth
    Nov 6, 2017 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Eth The trouble with ridiculous coincidences is that low probability events happen all the time. Glad to see you grasp the ways this scenario is stretched to make it work. It's more case of scientifically not impossible. Unlike the usual case of science-fiction where the scientific aspects are often flatly impossible. Thorne acknowledges in the book various aspects of Miller's Planet that make it less plausible. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Nov 8, 2017 at 4:39

The presence of the tidal waves suggests the planet is smooth without mountains or valleys to break up these never ending tidal super tsunamis.

The largest mountains, oceans, and chasms on earth are caused by plate tectonics which are also caused by our molten core. This is the same molten core that gives us our magnetic field which protects us and allows our atmosphere to retain our oceans. The absence of any topographical mega features to break up the tsunamis on Miller's planet suggests that this planet doesn't experience plate tectonics which also suggests no molten core. Without the molten core, there would be no magnetic field to protect the planet's waters from being stripped away by solar winds. So at the very least the watery surface shouldn't exist.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE! We're glad you could join us! When you have a moment, please click here to learn more about our culture and take our tour. This doesn't fully answer the OP's question. Further, it's an assumption that no mountains or valleys exist on the planet since only a small portion of it is presented. There could easily be plate tectonics with worn mountains due to constant erosion. Considering the gravimetric disturbance, it's guaranteed to have a molten core (c.f. Jupiter's moon Io). $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 28, 2019 at 17:48

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