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What does it look like when two black holes collide?

Thanks to a new simulation from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center and the Blue Waters supercomputer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), we now have a pretty good idea what it looks like when two black holes collide.

Manuela Campanelli, director of the Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, initiated this project nine years ago. Collaborating with Scott Noble, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, the two have made great strides in this research. A paper describing the team’s analysis of the new simulation was published Oct. 2, in The Astrophysical Journal.

The simulation that ran on Blue Waters modeled three orbits of the system and took 46 days on 9,600 computing cores. Campanelli and Noble’s collaboration was recently awarded additional time on Blue Waters to continue developing their models. The original simulation estimated gas temperatures. The team plans to refine their code to model how changing parameters of the system, like temperature, distance, total mass and accretion rate, will affect the emitted light. They’re interested in seeing what happens to gas traveling between the two black holes as well as modeling longer time spans.

Their work was recently featured in Space Coast Daily.

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