If two galaxies collide, the merging of their central black holes triggers gravitational waves, which ripple throughout space. An international research team involving the University of Zurich has now calculated that this occurs around 10 million years after the two galaxies merge – much faster than previously assumed.
In his General Theory of Relativity, Albert Einstein predicted gravitational waves over a century ago; this year, they were detected directly for the first time: The American Gravitational Wave Observatory LIGO recorded such curvatures in space from Earth, which were caused by the merging of two massive black holes.
And the research on gravitational waves – and thus the origin of the universe – continues: From 2034 three satellites are to be launched into space in a project headed by the European Space Agency (ESA) to measure gravitational waves at even lower frequency ranges from space using the Evolved Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (eLISA).
Until now, however, it was not possible to conclusively predict the point at which gravitational waves are triggered and spread throughout space when galaxies merge. An international team of astrophysicists from the University of Zurich, the Institute of Space Technology Islamabad, the University of Heidelberg and the Chinese Academy of Sciences has now calculated this for the first time using an extensive simulation.
Much faster than previously assumed
Every galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its core, which can exhibit millions or even billions of solar masses. In a realistic simulation of the universe, the merging of two roughly 3-billion-year-old galaxies lying relatively close to one another was simulated. With the aid of supercomputers, the researchers calculated the time the two central black holes with around 100 million solar masses needed to emit strong gravitational waves after the galaxies collided.
“The result is surprising,” explains Lucio Mayer from the Institute for Computational Science of the University of Zurich: “The merging of the two black holes already triggered the first gravitational waves after 10 million years – around 100 times faster than previously assumed.”
Year-long supercomputer calculation
The computer simulation, which took more than a year, was conducted in China, Zurich and Heidelberg. The project required an innovative computational approach with various numerical codes on different supercomputers. In the process, each supercomputer was responsible for calculating a certain phase of the orbital convergence of the two massive black holes and their parent galaxies.
Compared to previous models, the relation between the orbits of the central black holes and the realistic structure of the parent galaxies was factored into the present simulation. “Our calculations therefore allow a robust forecast for the merging rate of supermassive black holes in the early stage of the universe,” explains Mayer. “They may help assess the gravitational waves eLISA is bound to find in the near future more effectively.”
Fazeel Mahmood Khan, Davide Fiacconi, Lucio Mayer, Peter Berczik und Andreas Just. Swift Coalescence of Supermassive Black Holes in Cosmological Mergers of Massive Galaxies. Astrophysical Journal, 2. September 2016. arXiv:1604.00015
LISA symposium at the University of Zurich from September 5 to 9
The University of Zurich and ETH Zurich are organizing the 11th International LISA Symposium from September 5 to 9. The “who’s who” of gravitational astrophysics, high-ranking experts from the European and American space authorities and specialists from the space mission LISA will all convene on the Irchel campus to report on the extensive present tests on the LISA pathfinder mission’s technology, which have by far exceeded all expectations until now. And they will provide an outlook on the future gravitational wave observatory eLISA, which is due to be launched in 2034. Three satellites will then be sent into orbit around the sun at intervals of 1 million kilometers to track gravitational waves at a very low frequency range with the aid of laser beams. http://www.physik.uzh.ch/events/lisa2016/
Melanie Nyfeler | Universität Zürich
Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences