What happens when two black holes collide? Spectacular new simulations show the swirling action like never before, and they're definitely worth a watch.
Dr. Stuart Shapiro, professor of physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign, presented the simulations in Baltimore on April 13 at a meeting of the American Physical Society.
"Our simulations of binary black holes merging in circumbinary magnetized disks of gas allow us to probe a cosmic event that astronomers believe occurs in distant active galaxies and quasars," Shapiro told The Huffington Post in an email.
Using Einstein's theory. What sets these black hole simulations apart from previous examples? The researchers used a full-blown treatment of Einstein's general theory of relativity to build their 3D simulation models on supercomputers -- marking the first time such simulations were done without having to guesstimate the data, Nature reported.
Einstein's equations describe the gravitational field around a black hole, and the researchers developed a mathematical model to pair the equations with equations that account for the motion of matter and magnetic fields.
“As a technical achievement, there’s no doubt that this is a giant step forward,” Dr. Cole Miller, a University of Maryland astronomer who was not involved in the research, told Nature.
Timely simulations. The new simulations come at just the right time. Last March, astronomers provided evidence of two black holes on paths to collide. Their research -- along with the new simulations -- could shed light on how black holes get close enough to merge.