Black hole simulations

BBC News: Black hole mergers modelled in 3D

Simulations on a supercomputer have allowed Nasa scientists to understand finally the pattern of gravitational waves produced by merging black holes. The work should help the worldwide effort that is currently underway to make the first detection of these "ripples" in the fabric of space-time. Ultra-sensitive equipment set up in the US and Europe is expected to achieve the breakthrough observation very soon. The new research will make it easier to recognise the correct signals.

"With these calculations, we are now able to know what will be the distinctive gravitational wave signature that comes out from just outside merging black holes," commented Professor Peter Saulson, who is part of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (Ligo) Scientific Collaboration. "And by looking for this signal, we will be able to learn whether Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity is correct or whether there is even stranger physics ahead for us in the future."

They modelled equal-mass, non-spinning black holes, which is the easiest possible configuration, and it still took the supercomputer over 80 hours processing time. Now the laser interferometry groups have a better idea what to look for, and may possibly find a gravity wave.