Supercomputer re-creates X-rays emerging from black holes - New York News

Supercomputer re-creates X-rays emerging from black holes

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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/J. Schnittman, J. Krolik (JHU) and S. Noble (RIT). NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/J. Schnittman, J. Krolik (JHU) and S. Noble (RIT).

Black holes may be dark, but the areas around them definitely aren't. These dense, spinning behemoths twist up gas and matter just outside their event horizon and generate heat and energy that gets radiated as light.

For the first time, researchers were able to re-create and explain nearly all the components seen in the X-ray spectra of stellar-mass black holes using supercomputers.

These dense, spinning behemoths twist up gas and matter just outside their event horizon, and generate heat and energy that gets radiated, in part, as light. And when black holes merge, they produce a bright intergalactic burst that may act as a beacon for their collision.

Knowledge about black holes--these still-unseen objects--has grown tremendously in recent years. Part of the growth comes from researchers' ability to use detailed numerical models and powerful supercomputers to simulate the complex dynamics near a black hole.

Scientists created a new tool that predicts the light that an accreting black hole would produce. For the ?rst time, they were able to re-create and explain nearly all the components seen in the X-ray spectra of stellar-mass black holes.

The ability to generate realistic light signals from a black hole simulation is a first and brings with it the possibility of explaining a whole host of observations taken with multiple X-ray satellites during the past 40 years.

The simulations are the combined results of two computational codes. One re-creates the three-dimensional dynamics of a black hole accreting gas, including its magnetohydrodynamics, which charts the interplay of electrically conducting fluids like plasmas and a powerful magnetic field.

Though the MHD forces are critical near the black hole, it is the X-rays these forces generate that can be observed. The second component, a radiative transport code called Pandurata, simulates what real photons do.

The researchers' simulations were run on the Ranger supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, built with support from the National Science Foundation, which also funded the group's research.

The simulations were the highest resolution thin disk simulations ever performed.

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