Black hole swallows much smaller mysterious object

LIGO and VIRGO find a collision between a black hole and a mysterious object

Scientists say this discrepancy is odd and that it means GW190814 could either be a neutron star - which at that size would usually have collapsed into a black hole - or a black hole itself. "The mass gap may in fact not exist at all, but may have been due to limitations in observational capabilities", he said. He adds, however, "People aren't going to be joining cults because they can not survive this change in their worldview".

Dr Nicholas Ross, project collaborator and STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellow at the Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, said: "This result, the optical flash resulting from two black holes colliding and crushing the gas around them, is so exciting". Dozens of ground- and space-based telescopes followed up in search of light waves generated in the event, but none picked up any signals.

Gravitational waves revealed the collision between a black hole and a very odd object: too massive to be a neutron star, too light to be a black hole.

That places it in the Universe's "mass gap", referring to the virtually complete lack of observed objects between 2.6-5 solar masses.

Having collided with the large black hole, the object no longer exists. But there were plenty of gravitational waves: Some of the mass of the two combined objects - amounting to about a fifth of the mass of our sun - was converted directly into energy, in accordance with Einstein's E=mc equation.

The heaviest known neutron star is no more than 2.5 times the mass of the sun, or 2.5 solar masses, and the lightest known black hole is about five solar masses, according to the study.

This flare of light matters because it will help astronomers learn more about black holes, where gravity is so strong nothing can usually escape, and the role they play in the formation and development of the universe.


This graphic shows the masses for black holes detected through electromagnetic observations (purple), the black holes measured by gravitational-wave observations (blue), the neutron stars measured with electromagnetic observations (yellow), and the neutron stars detected through gravitational waves (orange). But that notion rests on observation, Özel stresses.

The author of the publication astrophysicist Vicky Kalogera of northwestern University, argues that a smaller object can be a black hole or a neutron star, the latter of which is the superdense remnant of an exploded star. Neutron star collisions are messy affairs with matter flung outward in all directions and are thus expected to shine with light. If the star is too massive, however, its core will shrink to an infinitesimal point, leaving behind only its superintense gravitational field: a black hole.

The new observation may put a dent in that theory-which Miller says has already met with some skepticism.

"We are really pushing our knowledge of low-mass compact objects. So, every single current theory we now have of what goes on inside of one has some uncertainty".

"This supermassive black hole was burbling along for years before this more abrupt flare", said Graham. But if it was a collision of neutron stars and black holes, cosmic fusion GW190814 will be the first discovered in the history of science. "NSF support of new technology continues to expand how we can track such events". "The interesting thing is the extreme mass ratio, which is hard to produce through most [models] people have focused on", Metzger says.

These central supermassive black holes can be surrounded by a disc of flowing gas which contains swarms of stars and smaller black holes. Both scenarios tend to make pairs in which the black holes have similar masses.

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