Modelling Black Holes
5th April 2022
Seb Hoenig in Physics and Astronomy has funding from the Science Technology Facilities Council (STFC) for research into accelerating the computational modelling of two supermassive black holes in the centre of a galaxy before they go into their final "death spiral".
Such modelling is already very computationally intensive but this research adds in a so far missing physical ingredient, radiation. Specifically, the project includes the impact radiation has on the gas and dust supermassive blackholes attract and swallow, modelling that require dedicated hardware.
GPUs are ideally suited to calculate the path of light as it bounces through the accreted material and the latest generation make this kind of simulation possible. The project has purchased a dedicated server with 2x Nvidia A100 GPUs with 80GB RAM for the work which has been deployed in collaboration with iSolutions and the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.
The project has already delivered the simulation video below. 5 seconds in you can see gas reaching the black holes in the centre of the image and starting to be accreted by them, which switches on the radiation. You can see that this quickly creates a “wind” of fast-moving particles being blown outwards, meanwhile the in-falling clouds begin to form a disc. Without the GPUs ray-tracing ability to accurately model the interaction between the gas and the radiation, we would not be able to capture any of this behaviour. The video models two black holes about 3 light years apart and the simulation covers about one million years of “real” time.