Building Black Holes: Supercomputer Cinema

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Science  22 Jul 1988:
Vol. 241, Issue 4864, pp. 421-425
DOI: 10.1126/science.241.4864.421


A new computer code can solve Einstein's equations of general relativity for the dynamical evolution of a relativistic star cluster. The cluster may contain a large number of stars that move in a strong gravitational field at speeds approaching the speed of light. Unstable star clusters undergo catastrophic collapse to black holes. The collapse of an unstable cluster to a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy may explain the origin of quasars and active galactic nuclei. By means of a supercomputer simulation and color graphics, the whole process can be viewed in real time on a movie screen.