Macy Levin

Class of 2019


Macy is a home-schooled student, class of 2021. She loves science, Shakespeare, math, and programming. In her free time she enjoys theatre both on and off the stage, riding horses, playing violin, reading and video editing. She hopes to pursue a career in astrophysics and cosmology.

Project: Visualizing a Binary Black Hole Merger


On September 14, 2015, LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), located in both Washington and Louisiana, detected a strange “ping” roughly 1.3 billion light years away from Earth. This “ping” was caused by gravitational waves as the result of a collision of two black holes, which occurred just as Earth’s inner core began to form, only just reaching us one billion years later. The purpose of this project was to visualize the relationship of a binary black hole system and the eventual collision between the two that marked a revolutionary event in the history of astrophysics.

Summary of Results

In order to develop the visualization, a set of differential equations had to be solved that respectively modeled the angular momentum, rate of change, eccentricity, radius and angular velocity of the black holes. Graphs were derived from these differential equations, which, alongside a simple animation of two rotating bodies around a common center, were merged by a common function that allowed for the points to follow the path of the spiral graphs developed from the initial equations. The final animation was initially developed so that one of the black holes remained stationary whilst the other orbited around it, accelerating as the distance between them began to decrease, but then was changed so that each object rotated parallel to each other around a common center, accelerating and growing closer and closer together until merging.

Future Work

In conclusion, this demonstration was able to successfully visualize a binary black hole merger. Alongside the original set of differential equations, it was given a separate set that allowed for further explorations to be made regarding the time and distance between the “ping” and LIGO. In the future, a second part of the project would be added to determine the distance of the gravitational wave detector from the black holes and the time it took the signal to reach the detector.