Generalized, energy-conserving numerical integration of geodesics in general relativity

Bart Ripperda & Fabio Bacchini, KU Leuven, Belgium

The numerical integration of particle trajectories in curved spacetimes is fundamental for obtaining realistic models of the particle dynamics around massive compact objects such as black holes and neutron stars. Generalized algorithms capable of handling generic metrics are required for studies of both standard spacetimes Schwarzschild and Kerr metrics) and non-standard spacetimes (e.g. Schwarzschild metric plus non-classical perturbations or multiple black hole metrics). The most commonly employed explicit numerical schemes (e.g. Runge-Kutta) are incapable of producing highly accurate results at critical points, e.g. in the regions close to the event horizon where gravity causes extreme curvature of the spacetime, at an acceptable computational cost. Here, we describe a generalized algorithm for the numerical integration of time-like (massive particles) and null (photons) geodesics in any given 3+1 split spacetime. We introduce a new, exactly energy-conserving implicit integration scheme based on the preservation of the underlying Hamiltonian, and we compare its properties with a standard fourth-order Runge-Kutta explicit scheme and an implicit midpoint scheme. We test the numerical performance of the three schemes against analytical solutions of test particle and photon orbits in Schwarzschild and Kerr spacetimes. We also prove the versatility of our framework in handling more exotic metrics such as Morris-Thorne wormholes and quantum-perturbed Schwarzschild black holes. The generalized approach is also discussed in the perspective of future extensions to more complex particle dynamics, e.g. the addition of the Lorentz force acting on charged particles.