In a groundbreaking study, scientists from the Rochester Institute of Technology have obtained new information about the speed at which black holes can travel through the universe. According to the modeling results, black holes can reach speeds of just under 10% of the speed of light after an energetic collision. This finding refutes previous calculations and brings us closer to understanding the violent events and consequences of black hole collisions. The study is published in the journal Physical Review Letters
The Ultimate Recoil: Unleashing Unprecedented Velocities
When two black holes merge, the resulting black hole does not simply remain in its original position. Instead, it may experience a recoil effect that takes it to a new trajectory and velocity. This phenomenon occurs when the gravitational energy is unequally distributed due to unequal masses or spins in the pair of black holes before the merger.
Previous estimates put the maximum velocity resulting from this effect at around 5,000 km/s. However, a recent study by James Healy and Carlos Lousteau has shown that black holes can reach speeds of up to 28,562 km/s, far exceeding previous predictions.
Implications for black hole science
Understanding the constraints and collision dynamics of black holes is crucial to advancing our knowledge of these enigmatic cosmic entities. The discovery of high-speed black holes could potentially explain the existence of black holes that are larger than existing theories predict.
With more black holes in motion, collisions become more frequent, resulting in more massive black holes. This sheds light on the core mass limit at collapse and provides valuable insights into the formation and evolution of black holes.
The power of supercomputers and numerical modeling
To obtain groundbreaking results, Healy and Lousteau used a supercomputer to run 1,381 complete numerical simulations of collisions between two black holes of equal mass with opposite spins. As a result of the simulations, they were able to determine the maximum velocity of the black holes after the collision.
The calculations showed that the maximum velocity is 28,562 km/s, which is equivalent to more than 100 million km/h. For comparison, the escape velocity of an object traveling through the Milky Way is only 497 km/s, and the fastest man-made object, the Parker Solar Probe, reached a speed of 163 km/s.
An unlikely scenario and the future of black hole research
Although the scenario used by the researchers in their modeling is an unlikely scenario, understanding the extreme limits of black hole collisions provides a foundation for future research. By identifying the limits of these events, scientists will be able to refine their models and predictions, ultimately deepening our understanding of black holes and their behavior.
“Our study accurately estimated the extreme recoil arising from a high-energy collision between two black holes. Extrapolation to extreme rotations led us to an estimate of the ultimate recoil of 28,562±342 kilometers per second, which limits its value to below 10% of the speed of light.” – James Healy and Carlos Lousteau, Rochester Institute of Technology