HPC simulation predicts hundreds of roving black holes

The latest supercomputer simulations have revealed that the Milky Way could be populated with many more ‘rogue’ black holes than had previously been expected. These black holes could be travelling across the galaxy at very high speeds, absorbing anything that crosses their path.

While scientists have observed supermassive black holes at the centre of galaxies and small black holes formed at the end of a star’s life, so far there has little observational evidence for medium-weight black holes that fit somewhere between the two extremes.

It had previously been assumed that these ‘intermediate mass’ black holes are hiding in large clusters of stars. However, new computational models performed by astronomers at the universities of Vanderbilt, Pennsylvania and Michigan in America, have shown that if these black holes collide and merge with other objects they receive a ‘kick’ that pushes them out of the cluster into the galaxy at speeds of up to 4,000km/s.

‘This is much higher than anyone predicted. Even the average kick velocity of 200km/s is extremely high when compared to the escape velocities of typical astronomical objects,’ says Kelly Holley-Bockelmann, an astronomer at Vanderbilt University.

The Milky Way contains around 200 globular clusters, but Holley-Bockelmann’s models show that most of the black holes will now have escaped and be roving the surrounding galaxy. ‘With our least conservative assumptions, less than two per cent of the globular clusters should contain intermediate mass black holes today,’ she says.

Twitter icon
Google icon icon
Digg icon
LinkedIn icon
Reddit icon
e-mail icon

For functionality and security for externalised research, software providers have turned to the cloud, writes Sophia Ktori


Robert Roe looks at the latest simulation techniques used in the design of industrial and commercial vehicles


Robert Roe investigates the growth in cloud technology which is being driven by scientific, engineering and HPC workflows through application specific hardware


Robert Roe learns that the NASA advanced supercomputing division (NAS) is optimising energy efficiency and water usage to maximise the facility’s potential to deliver computing services to its user community


Robert Roe investigates the use of technologies in HPC that could help shape the design of future supercomputers