Researchers at the Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation (CCRG) at the Rochester Institute of Technology are using the world’s most powerful university supercomputer to perform simulations that will help scientists study eccentric binary black hole mergers.
Professor Carlos Lousto of CCRG and the School of Mathematical Sciences was awarded one of 58 new science projects for 2021-2022 that received a time allocation on the Frontera supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC).
Frontera is a system funded by the National Science Foundation and designed for the most experienced academic computer scientists in the country. Researchers are given time on Frontera based on their very large-scale computational need and their ability to efficiently use a Frontera-scale supercomputer.
Lousto and his colleagues at CCRG have been simulating binary black hole fusions for years and are working as part of the LIGO scientific collaboration to research the gravitational waves produced by these fusions. But until now, these simulations have been based on seven parameters – three spin vectors for each black hole and the mass ratio of the black holes. But by taking advantage of Frontera, Lousto hopes to add another factor to create more complex simulations: the eccentricity of the orbit as two black holes rotate together toward collision.
“The last LIGO observation run found a very strange object,” Lousto said. “It was a binary fusion of black holes, but the models we had did not match the signal we detected well. We realized that we assume that black holes have been orbiting for a long time, circularizing, and spiraling very smoothly. We never thought there could be some eccentricity. This changes the physical scenario for the formation of these binaries. Now new events that are eccentric are appearing, something that was rather unexpected, it was not a traditional scenario for the formation of a black hole.
Adding this extra computational dimension to these simulations requires a huge amount of computational power, which is why Lousto and his research associate co-investigator James Healy are leveraging Frontera for the project. By comparison, Lousto estimates that the project today would take around 221 years for the best computer available on the market to perform the necessary calculations.
The allocations awarded this month represent the second cohort of Frontera users selected by the Large Resource Allocation Committee (LRAC) – a peer review committee of IT experts that meets annually to assess status. of preparation and suitability of projects for the time on Frontera.
Scientists at RIT’s CCRG have exploited Frontera for several projects to date, including the work of Professor Manuela Campanelli, director of CCRG, to study neutron fusions and the work of Lousto and Healy simulating black hole fusions with unequal masses.
For more information, visit the RIT CCRG website.