Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Simulations reveal surprising news about black holes

08.03.2005


Computer reveals that life around black holes is turbulent and violent


Computer simulations of how black holes swallow matter show surprising violence and turbulence.



For more than 30 years, astrophysicists have believed that black holes can swallow nearby matter and release a tremendous amount of energy as a result. Until recently, however, the mechanisms that bring matter close to black holes have been poorly understood, leaving researchers puzzled about many of the details of the process.

Now, however, computer simulations of black holes developed by researchers, including two at The Johns Hopkins University, are answering some of those questions and challenging many commonly held assumptions about the nature of this enigmatic phenomenon.


"Only recently have members of the research team -- John Hawley and Jean-Pierre De Villiers, both of the University of Virginia -- created a computer program powerful enough to track all the elements of accretion onto black holes, from turbulence and magnetic fields to relativistic gravity," said Julian Krolik, a professor in the Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins and co-leader of the research team. "These programs are opening a new window on the complicated story of how matter falls into black holes, revealing for the first time how tangled magnetic fields and Einsteinian gravity combine to squeeze out a last burst of energy from matter doomed to infinite imprisonment in a black hole."

Close to the black hole’s outer edge, where the Newtonian description of gravity breaks down, ordinary orbits are no longer possible. At that point -- or so it has been imagined for the past three decades -- matter plunges quickly, smoothly and quietly into the black hole. In the end, according to the prevailing picture, the black hole -- except for exerting its gravitational pull -- is a passive recipient of mass donations.

The team’s first realistic calculations of matter falling into black holes have strongly contradicted many of these expectations. They show, for instance, that life in the vicinity of a black hole is anything but calm and quiet. Instead, the relativistic effects that force matter to plunge inward magnify random motions within the fluid to create violent disturbances in density, velocity and magnetic field strength, driving waves of matter and magnetic field to and fro. This violence can have observable consequences, according to research team co-leader Hawley.

"Just like any fluid that has been stirred into turbulence, matter immediately outside the edge of the black hole is heated. This extra heat makes additional light that astronomers on Earth can see," Hawley said. "One of the hallmarks of black holes is that their light output varies. Although this has been known for more than 30 years, it has not been possible to study the origins of these variations until now. The violent variations in heating -- now seen to be a natural byproduct of magnetic forces near the black hole -- offer a natural explanation for black holes’ ever-changing brightness."

One of the most striking properties of a black hole is its ability to expel jets at close to the speed of light. While it has long been expected that magnetic fields are crucial to this process, the latest simulations show for the first time how a field can be expelled from the accreting gas to create such a jet.

Perhaps the most surprising result of the team’s new computer simulations is that the magnetic fields brought near a rotating black hole also couple the hole’s spin to matter orbiting farther out, in the same way that a car’s transmission connects its rotating motor to the axle. Says Krolik, "If a black hole is born spinning extremely rapidly, its ’drive train’ can be so powerful that its capture of additional mass causes its rotation to slow down. Accretion of mass would then act as a ’governor,’ enforcing a cosmic speed limit on black hole spins."

According to Krolik, that "governor" may have strong implications for many of the most striking properties of black holes. It is widely thought, for example, that the strength of a black hole’s jet is related to its spin, so a "spin speed limit" might determine a characteristic strength for the jets, Krolik said.

Phil Sneiderman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.jhu.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Further Improvement of Qubit Lifetime for Quantum Computers
09.12.2016 | Forschungszentrum Jülich

nachricht Electron highway inside crystal
09.12.2016 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>