NASA Creates Supercomputer Simulation of Merging Black Holes

Posted on September 30, 2012

NASA created this simulation that shows the merger of two black holes. The simulation shows the final three orbits of the black holes and their ultimate merger. The simulations involving magnetohydrodynamics and equations of Einstein's general relativity were run on the Pleiades supercomputer at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field.

Goddard astrophysicist John Baker says in a release, "The black holes orbit each other and lose orbital energy by emitting strong gravitational waves, and this causes their orbits to shrink. The black holes spiral toward each other and eventually merge."

Bruno Giacomazzo from the University of Colorado, Boulder, who led the research team with Baker, says the most interesting outcome of the magnetic simulation is a funnel-like structure that develops. Giacomazzo says, "This is exactly the type of structure needed to drive the particle jets we see from the centers of black-hole-powered active galaxies."

Take a look:

In the future, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), a joint NASA-ESA project to develop and operate a space-based gravitational wave detector, could help astronomers measure gravitational waves from colliding black holes. NASA says these types of waves aren't currently detectable by current ground-based observatories because they "undulate so slowly."