EuroCC Academic Flagship Update 1 - Hunting for Massive Black Holes -Dr John Regan, NUI, Maynooth
In September 2020, ICHEC announced details of seven academic projects awarded support from the Academic Flagship Programme at the EuroCC_Ireland Competence Centre. This two year programme aims to increase Irish competitiveness in the European supercomputing landscape. The seven successful projects were selected from a competitive call which received 13 proposals from researchers distributed across 17 universities/institutes across Ireland, UK, Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Japan and the USA. The Academic Flagship Programme operates under the EuroHPC Competency Centre for Ireland which ICHEC recently launched. It is one of 33 similar centres across Europe which form the EuroHPC programme.
The projects span a range of scientific domains and feature ambitious technical software development to achieve cutting edge scientific discoveries. In this update, Dr. John Regan, NUI Maynooth offers some details about how, using state-of-the-art hydrodynamic simulations of the early Universe, this project will model the formation and growth of black holes in the early Universe to understand how (and if) black holes populate dwarf galaxies.
Hunting for Massive Black Holes -Dr John Regan, NUI, Maynooth
Using some of Europe's most powerful supercomputers our group in Maynooth University is a world leader in research into the origins of massive black holes at the dawn of the Universe. Black holes are regions of spacetime where the gravitational force is so powerful that even light cannot escape and in fact time stands still! The last two decades in particular have seen multiple theoretical breakthroughs in our understanding of black holes. We now know that a super massive black hole weighting 4 million times the mass of the sun sits at the centre of our Milky-way galaxy. 5 years ago gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes were detected for the first time and we are now at the point where gravitational wave detection is becoming routine opening up a new window into black hole evolution and dynamics. Finally, in 2019 the first "picture" of a super massive black hole was taken showing the black hole shadow and accretion disk (see attached).
A fundamental question remains however underpinning all these results. As it stands we do not know the origin of super massive black holes. It is well understood that "small" black holes (like those we have thus far observed through gravitational waves) form when a massive star dies and collapses. The origin of the super massive black holes like the one at the centre of our Galaxy and the one in the famous picture is unknown. The origin of these monster black holes is the subject of intense research within the community. Our research in Maynooth is at the vanguard of global research in understanding early black hole formation and growth which may hold the key to understanding the origin of these super massive black holes. Using powerful supercomputers our team models the formation and growth of massive black holes in the early universe making predictions for upcoming gravitational wave observatories and telescope which can then search for their telltale signatures.