1st Place – Black Hole Encounter, Aaron Geller

This image shows three black holes and one normal star dancing in the heart of a dense star cluster. The very strong gravity near black holes bends the (normally straight) paths of starlight. This dramatically distorts the nearby star, causing these swirls and streaks. Computer simulations like these help us understand how black holes form and interact.

This work is particularly timely because LIGO first discovered gravitational waves in 2015, confirming Einstein’s century-old prediction and winning the 2017 Nobel Prize. Those gravitational waves came from the merger of two very distant black holes; black holes which may have been paired up in a dance like the one shown here.

Aaron Geller

Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration & Research in Astrophysics (CIERA)

Tools & Techniques: Computer simulation via Cluster Monte Carlo (CMC developed at Northwestern); image generated via python, OpenGL & GeoVis, Northwestern’s Quest High Performance Computer.

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