XSEDE Resources Play Key Role in Research on Black Holes

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Over at NICS, Scott Gibson writes that researchers have applied HPC to produce a highly efficient graphics engine that reveals in 3D what’s going on in very complicated astrophysical flows. These simulations also allow researchers to present their results to a wider audience.

McKinney and his research team colleagues convey in recent a Science paper how, through the use of simulations, they discovered that the behavior of black holes that have thick accretion disks differs from longstanding assumptions. The belief has been that accretion disks lie flat along the outer edges of black holes while the relativistic jets shoot out perpendicularly to the disks. However, the simulations showed that the configuration becomes more complex at large distances from the black hole spin axis, with the jets becoming parallel to, but offset from, the accretion disk’s rotational axis; in the process, the disk warps and the jet bends, influencing what one sees at different viewing angles. McKinney explained that key in making this discovery was being able to reduce the symmetry of the problem in their numerical code. To do that, the researchers used spherical polar coordinates that employ radius and two different angles to describe the coordinates. As a result of their approach, they were able to capture the black hole’s asymmetrical shape.

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