Until recently, astronomers had only observed black holes in two sizes.
A black hole is an area in space with gravity so that strong matter, radiation and light cannot escape.
A star-black hole is small and forms when a star collapses. It’s about the size of a small town. Then there are supermassive black holes, which can be up to billions of times larger than the Earth’s sun. Galaxies tend to revolve around these.
However, the physicist Nelson Christensen, research director of the French National Center for Scientific Research, discovered that black holes can actually fuse together to form star-black holes larger than 70 times the size of our sun.
“Two very massive black holes fused together and emit gravitational waves when they do,”
In May 2019, astronomers discovered a signal that was the energy from two star-black holes, one 66 times our solar mass and the other 85 times our solar mass crashing. Combined, they created a black hole that was 142 times the mass of our sun. Previously observed fusions in black black hole never resulted in any such large.
The collision released a gravitational wave, a space ripple moving at the speed of light – this was the signal the astronomers heard. Yes, heard. The detectors called LIGO and Virgo turn gravitational waves into sound signals. “Thud” lasted a tenth of a second.
But here’s the real kicker. The crash is so far from Earth that it happened 7 billion years ago, and astronomers could only discover it now.
“We have the big breakthrough today, where we are already looking to the future with future detectors that will tell us even more about the universe,” Christensen told the Associated Press. “And I just think it’s incredible to think we’ve discovered so much, but we’re also working hard to continue this with even more in the future.”
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