Menu
About Science
Study reveals why the leopard got its spots
Allergy risk linked to time of first trimester
Hubble reveals furthest galaxy yet
Scientists confirm water from lunar probe
Researchers power up tiny batteries
Plants clean air better than expected
Haiti fault capable of another big quake
Japanese man joins growing genome ranks
NASA releases report into balloon crash
Tree's ability to soak up CO2 has limits
Ground coffee helps robot get a grip
Assassin bugs lure arachnid snack
Research reveals spring in ostrich's step
Lizard gender bends at altitude
Study suggests early primates out of Asia
Flamingos boost their colour to find a mate
Globular clusters more than one-off event
Ancient Africans first to use sharp tools
Grass could turn toxic waste into energy
Earth-like planets may be common
Natural born cell killers
Fingers spot typo ahead of the brain
Ecofriendly styrofoam from milk and clay
Study proves exercise boosts immune system
Massive black hole collision revealed
Astrophysicists have succeeded in simulating the most extreme collision of two black holes yet: one black hole a hundred times more massive than the other.

The accomplishment comes after simulations had pushed from one-to-one mass collisions five years ago all the way up to ten to one mass mergers.

"When two black holes collide in realistic astrophysical scenarios, they don't have the same size," says Associate Professor Carlos Lousto of the Rochester Institute of Technology's (RIT) Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation.

Colliding galaxies would be the sort of scenario in which black holes of very different masses - everything from two-to-one up to a million-to-one - would fall into each other as they leak massive amounts of orbital energy by emitting gravitational waves.
Massive number crunching

Until now simulations had succeeded reproducing black hole collisions up to a 10-to-one mass ratio and reached the limits of those techniques, says Lousto.

Going further seemed like something that would take five to 10 years to solve. But that was before researchers met in Canada last summer and came up with some new techniques.

"In a few months we came up with a solution," says Lousto. "We think we can go beyond this mass ratio, maybe to a thousand-to-one."

"This is such a complex problem. It had to be solved by supercomputers. We needed really large resources."

In fact, it took the 70,000-processor supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center nearly three months to complete the simulation.

The new simulation is especially important because it bridges a gap in two very different research approaches: one that started from similar mass black holes and another approach using what's called perturbation techniques that approximated thousand-to-one collisions, says Assistant Professor Yosef Zlochower, also of RIT.

A paper announcing Lousto and Zlochower's findings has been submitted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters .
Helping to find gravitational waves

The simulation can also help predict the signatures of gravitational waves that come from different mass ratio black hole collisions. That ought to make it easier for other astronomers now looking for gravitational waves to understand what exactly they are detecting.

"In order to detect them you have to understand what you are looking for," says astrophysicist Duncan Brown of Syracuse University's Gravitational Wave Group.

There are currently two large US efforts underway to detect gravitational waves: the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), which is ground-based and the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), which is a NASA-backed space borne gravitational wave observatory which is not yet off the ground.

This new simulation will help to develop gravitational wave-form families that gravitational wave astronomers can look for once their observatories succeed in detecting gravity waves, which Brown expects will be within the next five years.

"The goal of LISA is to do high precision tests of General Relativity," says Brown. "This has some major astrophysical implications."

Print
Researchers put spark into scramjets
Fish found making their own 'mozzie' nets
Japan confirms asteroid dust on outback probe
Genetech pioneer awarded science prize
Scientists capture anti-matter atoms
Study reveals Icelandic eruption build-up
Astronomers spot galactic intruder
Open-mouthed laughter appreciated most
Financial crisis causes dip in CO2 levels
Puberty genes linked to body fat
Face shields needed for combat: study
Organically-grown vegies not more nutritious
Bloodstains could give age away
Models show pterosaurs flew long, slow
Marsupial carnivores were underestimated
Massive black hole collision revealed
Jet-lag causes long term memory loss
Sunken tanks could detect secret nukes
Dino demise supersized the mammals
Binge drinking linked to heart disease
Cassini sniffs oxygen on Saturnian moon
Image shows echoes from before big bang
Research uncovers diamond's soft side
World warmer, but trends at odds: report
Humans caused megafauna demise: expert
The world: Four degrees warmer
Blood vessels show pollution, heart disease link
Young great whites don't have the bite
Menu
Dolphin social network good for calves
Is fish-oil Alzheimer snake-oil?
Cosmic rays trace Sun's journey through space
Marsupial mole mystery solved
Scientists warn of new polio virus strain
Oldest known stone axe found in Arnhem Land
Fly-by captures first comet photos
Dead quasar's ghostly glow reignites debate
Mum and Dad tell us how to wear our genes
New images expand solar flare knowledge
Experts urge caution on Snowy cloud seeding
First little Big Bangs created at CERN
Tarantulas help map the fear factor
Neanderthal brains developed differently
Whales showing more sun damage
Bush cricket has the biggest balls of all
Giant gamma bubbles found in Milky Way
Complex life possible earlier than first thought
Happiness evades wandering minds?
Cat lapping defies gravity
Physics unravels wet dog shake
Hubble captures rare galactic view
Early wrinkles no sign of an early grave
World's forests suffer from 'leakage'