Scientists using ordinary light to trace merging supermassive black holes

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

WASHINGTON - Researchers are creating a detailed blueprint for merging black holes using ordinary visible light and existing telescopes.

Simulated models of these mergers will also aid the discovery of gravitational waves, confirming a key prediction of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

Using computer models, astrophysicists from Rochester Institute of Technology and Johns Hopkins University are tracing electromagnetic signatures back to the impact.

The team, led by Manuela Campanelli, of the Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation, would use computer models to simulate what happens to an accretion disk-a doughnut-shaped ring of gas and dust-as a pair of black holes within it approach each other and merge.

According to Campanelli, the surrounding gas and dust mixture is heated and will likely produce electromagnetic radiation that could be detected by conventional telescopes, such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, even before sufficiently sensitive gravitational wave telescopes are built.

“By being able to model this for the first time in a realistic scenario, with realistic conditions, we should be able to predict signals of binary black hole mergers that can be seen in the electromagnetic sky,” said Campanelli.

Yosef Zlochower, of the School of Mathematical Sciences and research faculty in the center, said, “Our project will make use of combined expertise in the simulation of generic black-hole binaries with magneto-hydrodynamics simulations to model the accretion disk physics during the last phases of the binary, when both space and time are very dynamical.”

The multilayered problem describes various stages of the merger in gaseous environments. Both teams are trying to “connect the dots” in this massive problem that draws on gravitational radiation and magneto-hydrodynamics, the theory that governs the dynamics of gas or plasma in strongly gravitating systems. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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