Black hole simulations to drive innovation in gravitational wave detectors

Researchers for the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), USA, have developed new black hole simulations that could further the development of gravitational wave detectors.

In a new paper, published in Physical Review Letters, RIT Professor Carlos Lousto and Research Associate James Healy from RIT’s School of Mathematical Sciences outline these record-breaking black hole simulations with varying masses.

Lousto said: “Right now, we can only observe black holes of comparable masses because they are bright and generate a lot of radiation. We know there should be black holes of very different masses that we do not have access to now through current technology and we will need these third generational detectors to find them. In order for us to confirm that we are observing holes of these different masses, we need these theoretical predictions and that’s what we are providing with these simulations.”

As scientists develop more advanced detectors, such as the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), they will need more sophisticated simulations to compare the signals they receive with. The black hole simulations calculate properties about the merged black holes including the final mass, spin, and recoil velocity, as well as peak frequency, amplitude, and luminosity of the gravitational waveforms the mergers produce.

The scientists from RIT’s Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation created a series of simulations showing what happens when black holes of increasingly disparate masses orbit 13 times and merge.

Lousto added: “From a computational point of view, it really is testing the limits of our method to solve Einstein’s general relativity equations on supercomputers. It pushes to the point that no other group in the world has been able to come close to. Technically, it’s very difficult to handle two different objects like two black holes, in this case one is 128 times larger than the other.”

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