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December 16, 2011

Black Hole Accretion Disk

This image shows the distribution of gas density (blue for low density to red for high density) in a black hole accretion disk simulation. The work was performed by John Hawley and Kris Beckwith of the University of Virginia. These models were designed to test the influence of different magnetic field configurations on disk and jet formation around a spinning black hole.

Accretion disks around black holes power some of the most energetic phenomena observed in the universe. Hawley and collaborators used National Science Foundation-sponsored supercomputing resources, including the National Center for Supercomputing Applications' (NCSA) Abe, to show that otherwise smoothly orbiting gas in an accretion disk will become highly turbulent in the presence of even relatively weak magnetic fields, which had been ignored in previous simulations and theories.

To learn more about this research, see the article "Assurance of things not seen," published in NCSA's Access magazine (summer 2008). [Research supported by NSF's Information Technology Research for National Priorities grant PHY 02-05155.] (Date of Image: April 2008)

Credit: John F. Hawley, Kris Beckwith, University of Virginia

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