From NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio. Supercomputer models of merging black holes reveal properties that are crucial to understanding future detections of gravitational waves. This movie follows two orbiting black holes and their accretion disk during their final three orbits and ultimate merger. Redder colors correspond to higher gas densities.
The initial magnetic field of the gas is amplified by 100 times. Magnetic fields evacuate the region above the black hole and produce a thinner, hotter, denser disk in the immediate vicinity of the black hole than in simulations without them. The merged black hole resides within a hot, dense disk of ionized gas. The base of the low-density funnel is visible near the center. Such a structure could support a jet of particles moving near the speed of light, although one was not yet produced before the simulation ended. This model, which includes the effects of general relativity, magnetic fields and gas dynamics, produced an electromagnetic signal 10,000 brighter than in simulations that ignored the gas effects.
The sequence ends with a simulation of the merger of two black holes and the resulting emission of gravitational radiation. The colored fields represent a component of the curvature of space-time. The outer red sheets correspond directly to the outgoing gravitational radiation that one day may be detected by gravitational-wave observatories. The brighter yellow areas near the black holes do not correspond to physical structures but generally indicate where the strong non-linear gravitational-field interactions are in play. Such outgoing gravitational radiation one day may be detected by gravitational-wave observatories.