How black holes swallow stars
Researchers have revealed how black holes swallow stars.
Tamara Bogdanovic, Assistant Professor of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said black holes by themselves do not emit light and that their best chance to discover them in distant galaxies is if they interact with stars and gas that are around them.
Bogdanovic explained that this flare of light was found to have a characteristic behavior as a function of time, saying that it starts very bright and its luminosity then decreases in time in a particular way. Astronomers have identified those as galaxies where a central black hole just disrupted and 'ate' a star.
Bogdanovic relies on National Science Foundation-funded supercomputers like Stampede at the Texas Advanced Computing Center and Kraken at the National Institute for Computational Sciences.
Using these systems, she and her collaborators recently simulated the dynamics of these super powerful forces and charted their behavior using numerical models. Stampede and Kraken are part of the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), a single virtual system that scientists use to interactively share computing resources, data and expertise.
Using a mix of theoretical and computational approaches, Bogdanovic tries to predict the observational signatures of events like the black-hole-devouring-star scenario described above, also known as a "tidal disruption" -- or two supermassive black holes merging, another of her interests. Such events would have a distinct signature to someone analyzing data from a ground-based or a space-based observatory.
The paper has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal.
(Posted on 15-04-2014)