For decades, scientists have developed methods to study black holes by observing their effects on the surrounding matter. And now scientists at the University of Nottingham in the UK are proposing a fundamentally new approach to the study of these extremely important but elusive celestial objects, New Scientist reported.
Using superfluid helium, which has a viscosity 500 times lower than water, the researchers created a quantum simulator by placing the helium in a tank with a spinning propeller at the bottom.
Because of its extremely low friction and vortex-like environment, this helium begins to exhibit "unusual quantum effects." These effects have allowed scientists to observe phenomena similar to black holes, such as the "ringdown mode" and cosmic fields interacting with gravitational vortices.
“While similar vortices have been made before in physical systems other than superfluid helium, their strength is typically at least a couple of orders of magnitude weaker,” says Patrik Svancara, also at the University of Nottingham and part of the team.
These vortices are difficult to form because they are made up of tiny particles called quanta. When many of them are clustered together, they tend to become unstable, but the experimental set-up here allowed the researchers to combine about 40,000 quanta of rotation together to form what they call a “giant quantum vortex.”
These quantum vortices make the study of black holes much more feasible, the scientists say.