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Using a supercomputer and some custom-built code, an international team of researchers has created the "most detailed" simulation of a black hole proving a long-standing theory that has puzzled astrophysicists for 45 years.
The theory, first published in 1975, posited that the inner-most region of a spinning black hole would eventually align with the hole's equatorial plane. While that may seem somewhat confusing and inconsequential, how this region is warped by the black hole can have huge effects on entire galaxies.
An international team has constructed the most detailed, highest resolution simulation of a black hole to date. The simulation proves theoretical predictions about the nature of accretion disks—the matter that orbits and eventually falls into a black hole—that have never before been seen.
Among the findings, the team of computational astrophysicists from Northwestern University, the University of Amsterdam and the University of Oxford found that the inner-most region of an accretion disk aligns with its black hole's equator.
This discovery solves a longstanding mystery, originally presented by Nobel Prize-winning physicist John Bardeen and astrophysicist Jacobus Petterson in 1975. At the time, Bardeen and Petterson argued that a spinning black hole would cause the inner region of a tilted accretion disk to align with its black hole's equatorial plane.
After a decades-long, global race to find the so-called Bardeen-Petterson effect, the team's simulation found that, whereas the outer region of an accretion disk remains tilted, the disk's inner region aligns with the black hole.