Feeds

Supercomputer vid proves NASA black-hole ring sniffers were RIGHT

BILLION-DEGREE blasts from cosmic halos turn up in simulation

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Video Stellar-mass black holes produce their highest-energy light from the turbulent froth of their gas corona, boffins have discovered with the help of a massive amount of supercomputing power.

Astronomers from NASA, Johns Hopkins University and the Rochester Institute of Technology used 960 of the Ranger supercomputer's nearly 63,000 central processing units over 27 days to confirm long-held suspicions about how gas behaves around a black hole.

"Our work traces the complex motions, particle interactions and turbulent magnetic fields in billion-degree gas on the threshold of a black hole, one of the most extreme physical environments in the universe," said lead researcher Jeremy Schnittman, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Gas sucked in towards a black hole first orbits around it and then accumulates into a sort of flattened disc before spiralling in, getting more and more compressed and heated as it nears the centre. The temperature of this compressed gas eventually reaches up to 20 million degrees Fahrenheit (12 million °C), around 2,000 times hotter than the surface of the Sun, and shines brightly in low-energy, or soft, X-rays.

However, observations also show that black holes shine with large amounts of hard X-rays, lighting up to hundreds of times brighter than soft X-rays, implying that even hotter gas at temperatures of billions of degrees is present.

Using the Ranger supercomputer at the Texas Advance Computing Centre in the University of Texas, the boffins modelled the environment and showed that both types of X-rays come from gas spiralling in toward the black hole. The rising temperature, density and speed of the gas being sucked into the event horizon* dramatically amplifies magnetic fields in the disc, which then put even more pressure on the gas.

The result is a corona of gas whipping around the black hole at speeds approaching the speed of light in a structure similar to the corona around the Sun, as predicted by astronomers.

"Black holes are truly exotic, with extraordinarily high temperatures, incredibly rapid motions and gravity exhibiting the full weirdness of general relativity," John Hopkins' Julian Krolik said. "But our calculations show we can understand a lot about them using only standard physics principles."

The study was based on a non-rotating black hole but the models are now being extended to spinning ones, where rotation pulls the inner edge of the disc further inward and conditions are even more extreme.

The paper, "X-ray Spectra from MHD Simulations of Accreting Black Holes", published in The Astrophysical Journal, is available on arXiv here. ®

* As described by NASA boffins: "The event horizon is the boundary where all trajectories, including those of light, must go inward. Nothing, not even light, can pass outward across the event horizon and escape the black hole."

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
It's Big, it's Blue... it's simply FABLESS! IBM's chip-free future
Or why the reversal of globalisation ain't gonna 'appen
'Hmm, why CAN'T I run a water pipe through that rack of media servers?'
Leaving Las Vegas for Armenia kludging and Dubai dune bashing
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
CAGE MATCH: Microsoft, Dell open co-located bit barns in Oz
Whole new species of XaaS spawning in the antipodes
Microsoft and Dell’s cloud in a box: Instant Azure for the data centre
A less painful way to run Microsoft’s private cloud
AWS pulls desktop-as-a-service from the PC
Support for PCoIP protocol means zero clients can run cloudy desktops
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.