Binary Black Hole Grand Challenge

The event horizon from the head-on collision of two black holes. The vertical axis is the time axis and the yellow arrows denote the directions of the spacial coordinates. The black holes were formed from the collapse of pressureless dust.

The 3D spiraling coalescence of two Black Holes is a problem of fundamental importance to astrophysics and general relativity. Such an event would produce a strong source of gravitational radiation that will be detectable by LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) by the turn of this century. Gravitational wave astronomy will open up a new window into our Universe. A solution to the 2 black hole problem will provide a better understanding of strong field dynamics and will provide a means of determining gravitational wave signals for such events. Since traditional analytic methods cannot be used to solve this problem computational techniques must be used.

The above picture was generated computationally from the solution to the less general situation of the head-on collision of two black holes. From such a solution gravitational radiation waveforms are extracted and a detailed study of the dynamics of strong gravitational fields are made possible. The problem of the general 3D spiraling coalescence of two black holes the Einstein field equations must be solved using advanced computational techniques. The ten Einstein field equations are a mixture of nonlinear elliptic and hyperbolic partial differential equations. The solution to these equations for the general case is computationally intensive and requires the development of algorithms in scalable computational techniques and requires new methods of data management and new visualization techniques. The research and development from this project will affect other areas of science and engineering that make use of intensive computation. The application of adaptive gridding and advanced solution techniques such as multigrid to hyperbolic and parabolic systems will be useful in other areas. The task of tackling such a computationally intensive and difficult problem will stimulate new developments in computer architecture and algorithms for massively parallel and vector machines that will impact other areas. The completion of this grand challenge will provide the ability to solve similar large scale computational problems in other areas.

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