Astronomers detect most powerful and massive merger of black holes in the history of the universe


According to CBS, astronomers have detected what they believe to be the most powerful, most massive, most distant merger of two black holes in the history of the observable universe. ~

An international team of scientists detected a signal, called GW190521, on May 21, 2019, using the National Science Foundation’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) interferometers in the U.S. and the Virgo detector in Italy. This signal is believed to have been produced from the collision of two black holes with masses about 85 and 66 times the mass of the sun. Researchers say the event created an even more massive black hole, about 142 times the mass of the sun, and released a huge “bang” of leftover energy, equivalent to about eight solar masses, in the form of gravitational waves able to be detected on Earth. ~

Not only is this black hole the first of its kind to be detected, but scientists also suspect that the black holes that produced it are unique in their size. Most stellar-mass black holes form from collapsing stars, but in this case, the weight of one of the black holes means it should not have been able to be involved in such an event. “The fact that we’re seeing a black hole in this mass gap will make a lot of astrophysicists scratch their heads and try to figure out how these black holes were made,” Virgo researcher Nelson Christensen said. Scientists hypothesize the two original black holes formed from a set of four even smaller black holes. ~

In opposition to the theory of the black hole cluster, astronomers are also pondering the possibility that the waves were emitted by a collapsing star or a cosmic string just after the universe was created. “Since we first turned on LIGO, everything we’ve observed with confidence has been a collision of black holes or neutron stars,” researcher Alan Weinstein, a professor at Caltech, said. “This is the one event where our analysis allows the possibility that this event is not such a collision.”  Weinstein believes this event has the ability to make history in giving evidence to “something new … unexpected, that could challenge what we’ve learned already” (CBS). ~


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