Using Black Holes as a Particle Accelerator



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Artist impression of a new black hole.NASA / CXC / M.Weiss

After the discovery of the Higgs boson by the Large Hadron Collider, there has been much discussion about where to go from here. The LHC is currently the most powerful particle accelerator in the world, colliding particles at energies of about 13 TeV. Meanwhile, it yielded some physics tips in addition to the default templateprobably will not solve some of the biggest issues in particle physics. What we need is a much more powerful particle accelerator. There is a proposal to build a circular collider of the future operating at almost ten times that of the LHC, but building and operating would be extremely expensive, and this has some scientists asking if it would be worth the cost.

But what if we could use a particle accelerator that already exists in nature? What if we could use black holes? We already know that black holes are powerful engines, creating jets of high energy particles that flow from the black hole almost at the speed of light. Unfortunately, any high-energy exotic particles they produce would decay rapidly, so we could not observe them directly. But one article in Physical Review D argues that we might be able to observe them indirectly through gravitational waves.

In recent years, astronomers have observed gravitational waves created by the fusion of black holes and neutron stars. We can observe them with sufficient sensitivity to be able to determine things like the masses and initial rotations of the bodies that merge, as well as the mass and the rotation of the resulting black hole. But with more sensitivity, we can measure other energy fluctuations that occur in fusion, and that's where that new article comes in.

Rotating black holes tend to supply energy to any surrounding cloud of matter by a process known as frame drag. If a diffuse cloud of matter were located around a black hole as it began to fuse with another, the fraying effect between the two black holes could transfer a tremendous amount of energy to the subject. It is similar to the way a satellite can pass through Jupiter to reach the outer solar system, but much more powerful. Known as super radiance, it would create a beam of particles far more powerful than anything we could create on Earth. And this could create exotic particles beyond the standard model. We would not be able to observe these particles directly, but the energy of the particles would affect the gravitational waves created by the black holes. When looking for fluctuations in gravitational waves, we could learn that there are exotic particles, or at least put limits on which there are no exotic particles.

A black hole particle accelerator would not be as accurate as one on Earth. But perhaps by studying gravitational waves we can learn that there are particles beyond the standard model, and that building new particle accelerators would be worth the effort.

Daniel Baumann, et al. Ultralight probing bosons with binary black holes. arxiv.org/abs/1804.03208

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Artist impression of a new black hole.NASA / CXC / M.Weiss

After the discovery of the Higgs boson by the Large Hadron Collider, there has been much discussion about where to go from here. The LHC is currently the most powerful particle accelerator in the world, colliding particles at energies of about 13 TeV. Although this has produced some physics tips beyond the standard model, it probably will not solve some of the biggest issues in particle physics. What we need is a much more powerful particle accelerator. There is a proposal to build a Future Circular Collider operating at almost ten times that of the LHC, but building and operating would be extremely costly, and that makes some scientists wonder if it would be worth the cost.

But what if we could use a particle accelerator that already exists in nature? What if we could use black holes? We already know that black holes are powerful engines, creating jets of high energy particles that flow from the black hole almost at the speed of light. Unfortunately, any high-energy exotic particles they produce would decay rapidly, so we could not observe them directly. But a recent article in Physical Review D argues that we may be able to observe them indirectly through gravitational waves.

In recent years, astronomers have observed gravitational waves created by the fusion of black holes and neutron stars. We can observe them with sufficient sensitivity to be able to determine things like the masses and initial rotations of the bodies that merge, as well as the mass and the rotation of the resulting black hole. But with more sensitivity, we can measure other energy fluctuations that occur in fusion, and that's where that new article comes in.

Rotating black holes tend to supply energy to any surrounding cloud of matter by a process known as frame drag. If a diffuse cloud of matter were located around a black hole as it began to fuse with another, the fraying effect between the two black holes could transfer a tremendous amount of energy to the subject. It is similar to the way a satellite can pass through Jupiter to reach the outer solar system, but much more powerful. Known as super radiance, it would create a beam of particles far more powerful than anything we could create on Earth. And this could create exotic particles beyond the standard model. We would not be able to observe these particles directly, but the energy of the particles would affect the gravitational waves created by the black holes. When looking for fluctuations in gravitational waves, we could learn that there are exotic particles, or at least put limits on which there are no exotic particles.

A black hole particle accelerator would not be as accurate as one on Earth. But perhaps by studying gravitational waves we can learn that there are particles beyond the standard model, and that building new particle accelerators would be worth the effort.

Daniel Baumann, et al. Ultralight probing bosons with binary black holes. arxiv.org/abs/1804.03208

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