In a powerful demonstration of the value of computation to modern astronomy, McKinney et al. (2013) used the resources of the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) to perform 3D simulations of the behavior of black holes. These simulations are important because they predict the behavior of black holes in the extreme gravitational limit, where Einstein’s theory of General Relativity has yet to be fully tested. These simulations give important new insights into the behavior of black holes at extreme gravities.
Visualizations by Ralf Kaehler and Jonathan C. McKinney.
Before this new work, it was thought that the accretion disk sits flat along the edges of the black hole, and the jets shoot out at right-angles to the disk. But the new simulations show that the jets are aligned with the black hole’s spin near the black hole, and gradually get pushed by material in the accretion disk and become parallel to, but offset from, the disk’s rotational axis at large distances. The interaction between the jet and disk leaves a warp in the accretion disk density – see this in the video.
The XSEDE computational facilities used were: National Institute for Computational Sciences (Kraken), Texas Advanced Computing Center (Lonestar/Ranch), and NASA Advanced Supercomputing (Pleiades).
Read the press release at http://www.tacc.utexas.edu/news/feature-stories/2012/journey-to-the-limits-of-spacetime.
The paper describing the results is Alignment of Magnetized Accretion Disks and Relativistic Jets With Spinning Black Holes. J. C. McKinney et al. Science 339, 40 (2013). (DOI: 10.1126/science.1230811).