Caltech Simulation Shows How Black Holes Grow

Posted on July 2, 2024

Caltech astrophysicists led by Caltech's Phil Hopkins built a cosmic computer simulation that shows how black holes grow and evolve. They found that magnetic fields play a much larger role than previously thought.

The simulation shows magnetic fields prop up the material around the disks and make the material fluffier.

Hopkins says in a statement, "In our simulation, we see this accretion disk form around the black hole. We would have been very excited if we had just seen that accretion disk, but what was very surprising was that the simulated disk doesn't look like what we've thought for decades it should look like."

He also says, "So, the disks are almost completely controlled by the magnetic fields. The magnetic fields serve many functions, one of which is to prop up the disks and make the material puffy.:

Papers published in the 1970s about accretion disks fueling supermassive black holes proposed that the change in pressure caused by the changing temperature of the gas in the disks helped keep disks from collapsing under the tremendous gravity they experience close to the black hole. It was assumed magnetic fields played a role but not nearly the role the simulation revealed. The Caltech simulation found that the pressure from the magnetic fields of such disks was actually 10,000 times greater than the pressure from the heat of the gas.

The research paper was published in the journal, The Open Journal of Astrophysics.

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