Biggest ever black hole collision is detected by scientists

Christopher Davidson
December 6, 2018

"It could have been a neutron star that collapsed to a black hole after some time or turned immediately into a black hole", said Karl Wette, at Australia National University and a member of Center of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery.

GW170814 was the first binary black hole merger measured by the three-detector network, and allowed for the first tests of gravitational-wave polarization (analogous to light polarization). What's more, this collision was seen in gravitational waves and light, marking an exciting new chapter in multi-messenger astronomy, in which cosmic objects are observed simultaneously in different forms of radiation.

In the past, our current understanding of black holes and these phenomena was supported by observations with X-rays and optical and radio waves. However, a recent study confirmed the initial findings. The loudness of the signal tells you how far the source is located, while in the case the sound is faint and blends with the background noise, scientists might be uncertain about it.

Since the second observing run finished in August 2017, scientists have been upgrading the LIGO and Virgo gravitational-wave detectors to make them more sensitive. It was such a ideal signal that scientists thought it was a prank pulled off by a hacker. So, gravitational wave events GW170729 were the result of the merging black holes with masses of approximately 51 and 34 solar masses (the total mass 85 solar masses); the energy of the waves thus passed about five solar masses.

We now know that black holes collide with some regularity throughout the universe. For us, he will thus cover climate, environment, and science news, among others.

"State-of-the-art waveform models, advanced data processing and better calibration of the instruments have allowed us to infer astrophysical parameters of previously announced events more accurately and discover four new gravitational wave transients from black hole mergers", said Professor Alessandra Buonanno, a researcher at the University of Maryland and director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam, Germany.

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Gravitational waves carry information about their origins and about the nature of gravity that can not otherwise be obtained. "Our new project will help to provide critical information about what we get from the merger of two neutron stars".

Dr Karl Wette, a postdoctoral fellow in the group at ANU and a member of OzGrav, said scientists were not sure what was formed from the neutron-star merger that was detected in August a year ago.

The new announcement is the largest batch of detections released at once, and it includes an event that is both the most massive and the most distant collision observed to date.

"This means during the upcoming third observing run, starting early next year, we will be able to detect events further out in space, meaning more detections and potentially gravitational waves from new and yet unknown sources in the Universe", Professor Scott said.

Supermassive black holes are incredibly dense areas in the centre of galaxies with masses that can be billions of times that of the sun.

It is believed that the gravitational force of a black hole can influence space and time.

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