Canada's Largest Computer Simulation Peers into Dark Black Hole at Milky
TORONTO, Sept. 8, 2011 /CNW/ - Telescopes can see light from distant
galaxies; but it takes a supercomputer to see why the centre of our own
is so dark.
The intense gravity near black holes makes for a violent, active region
of space. Gas or stars that wander too near are torn apart, their
energy released as X-rays. In the centre of the Milky Way, 26,000 light
years away, is a black hole over four million times heavier than our
Sun, but only modestly brighter. It's eerily quiet -- too quiet.
This mystery may have been solved by an international team of scientists
lead by researchers at the Canadian Institute of Theoretical
Astrophysics, and the University of Toronto Department of Astronomy and
Astrophysics, in work published in the current issue of Monthly Notices
of the Royal Astronomical Society. The team used supercomputers at
SciNet, University of Toronto, to carry out the largest computer
simulations ever performed in Canada so they could test out their new
"We've long thought that magnetic fields can choke off the flow of
material into the black hole" says Prof. Ue-Li Pen of CITA. "Our
earlier work suggested this, but then, it just wasn't possible for a
simulation to look at the huge range of lengths - from light years to
light minutes - needed to track the hot gas as it falls all the way
towards the black hole."
"But our new methods, and SciNet, let us do just that," added Dr. Bijia
Pang. "We broke up the region of space near the black hole into 100
billion zones, and spread them over almost 18 thousands processors on
SciNet's largest cluster. This finally gave us the resolution we needed
to test our model - we could see, with unprecedented accuracy, the
fields halting the turbulence and keeping the gas from falling in."
The paper, "Numerical parameter survey of non-radiative black hole
accretion: flow structure and variability of the rotation measure", can
be found online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2011.18748.x/full
SciNet is Canada's largest supercomputer centre, providing Canadian
researchers with computational resources and expertise necessary to
perform their research on scales not previously possible in Canada.
SciNet powers work from the biomedical sciences and aerospace
engineering to astrophysics and climate science. SciNet is part of
Compute Canada, a national infrastructure for supercomputing-powered
innovation, and is funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation,
NSERC, the Ontario Government, and the University of Toronto. More
information is available at http://www.scinet.utoronto.ca.
SOURCE SciNet - University of Toronto
For further information:
SciNet HPC Consortium