Mammoth Collision Of 'Impossible' Black Holes Detected For First Time

Artist's impression of two black holes colliding

It is said to be the most massive and distant black hole merger observed by gravitational wave detectors to date, and could be the first evidence of a third type of black hole. But he said without that "blip" of a gravitational wave, they never would have known it had happened.

There are two main types of black holes that include stellar-mass black holes and supermassive black holes. Or perhaps, the two progenitor black holes were not formed through mergers or stellar collapse, but instead started off as primordial black holes. The remaining eight solar masses would have been converted into gravitational wave energy.

Findings on the discovery were published in Physical Review Letters. The one that is 85 solar masses is particularly intriguing because it falls right in the middle.

Black holes of mass 100 to 100,000 solar masses are called intermediate mass black holes (IMBHs).

The search is over. "This is the first conclusive evidence for an intermediate-mass black hole".

In May 2019, these same observatories detected the largest gravitational wave ever measured, even though it only lasted a tenth of a second.

The merger of middleweight black holes churned up gravitational waves that were detected on Earth. What is a gravitational wave?

"This is a milestone in modern astronomy and a personal milestone after six years of intensive research hunting this hard-to-find black hole".

Gravitational wave detectors like LIGO and Virgo are insensitive to signals at very low and high frequencies - specifically, below 20 Hz and above a few hundred Hz - and are most sensitive around 100 Hz.

Now, with a bonafide detection, GW190521 is the first of its kind ever detected.

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"This doesn't look much like a chirp, which is what we typically detect", said Nelson Christensen, Virgo team collaborator and director of the Artemis Laboratory at the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur, in a statement. The most recent detection is the farthest merger that LIGO and Virgo have ever found.

According to theory, stars that are roughly 10 times the mass of the sun can die in a massive explosion - a supernova - that can produce a black hole. All of the stars in our galaxy orbit the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way; our solar system orbits the center once every 230 million years. Furthermore, the merger created a dark gap of nearly 150 sun oriented masses, the specialists have assessed, placing it in a range where no dark gaps had ever been definitively observed previously.

This new black hole's "medium" size - not too big, not too small - makes it an anomaly.

Stars collapse beneath their own weight when their cores evolve and no longer have enough pressure to support the star's outer layers. The scientists are still not clear as to how the black holes grow.

Back then there was a lot of dense material clumping together so it might have been possible for a black hole to form without having been a star in the first place.

When stars between five and 65 times the mass of our Sun explode, they collapse to form black holes. But how did it form? Then there are supermassive black holes, which can be found at the centre of most galaxies. "The system we found was so freakish that it broke several previous assumptions about how black holes were formed".

Astronomers working with the LSC (the Laser Interferometry Gravitational Wave Observatory Scientific Collaboration) and the Virgo Collaboration spotted for the first time the gravitational waves of an intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH).

"This event opens more questions than it provides answers", said LIGO member and physicist Alan Weinstein of Caltech. "From the perspective of discovery and physics, it's a fascinating thing".

While unlikely, the researchers admit the signal's strangely short duration, combined with other weird aspects, mean GW190521 could have been produced by something completely unexpected.

It was a signal from a gravitational wave, a relatively new field of discovery. During the ringdown, the final black hole emits gravitational waves that might resemble the noise from a bell that's just been struck and is "ringing down". "The signal also could be from a cosmic string produced just after the universe inflated in its earliest moments - although neither of these exotic possibilities matches the data as well as a binary merger".

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