Both found a fusion of objects with masses between 23 and 2.6 times greater than that of the Sun. The LIGO-Virgo team has scheduled a one-hour Zoom webinar at 7 a.m. PT June 25 to provide a deeper dive into the latest results and other gravitational-wave research.
However, the researchers have ruled out other possible causes, such as a supernova when a star reaches the end of its life, or something called a tidal disruption event when a black hole eats a star.
They said the object formed when another unknown body merged with a large black hole around 800 million years ago, in doing so emitting a huge gravitational wave detectable on Earth.
"This is the first glimpse of what could be a whole new population of compact binary objects", Charlie Hoy, a LIGO scientist, explains. As the two black holes tumbled into each other, they tore into and kicked up material in the disk, generating a piercing flare that lasted for roughly a month.
The objects met and merged 7.5 billion light-years away, within a vortex of hot, swirling matter circling a larger, supermassive black hole. "The mass gap may in fact not exist at all but may have been due to limitations in observational capabilities". Altogether, the observatories have detected likely gravitational waves more than 30 times. However, we can not rule out the possibility of the neutron star either, although this type of collision should produce a large light signal, we may simply be too distant (800 million light-years) to detect it.More news: Denny McCarthy drops from Travelers Championship after testing positive for coronavirus
As the black holes collided with each other, they sent out the expected gravitational waves, however shortly afterwards, the California Institute of Technology's (Caltech) Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), located at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, captured a flare of light that was pinpointed to the same area as the gravitational wave event.
The finding has important implications for astrophysics and the understanding of low-mass compact objects, according to the study.
They have so far only observed mergers of matched pairs.
Gravitational waves, or ripples in space and time, don't produce light. "The flare occurred on the right timescale, and in the right location, to be coincident with the gravitational-wave event". That event, discovered by the LIGO-Virgo network in August of 2017, involved a fiery collision between two neutron stars that was subsequently witnessed by dozens of telescopes on Earth and in space.
But on this occasion, scientists failed to detect any light signal capable of being produced from a neutron star. Conversely, black hole mergers, in most circumstances, are thought not to produce light.More news: Justin Bieber Is Suing Sexual Assault Allegers for $20 Million
How do two merging black holes erupt with light?
If the starting star is below a certain mass, one option is for it to collapse into a dense ball composed entirely of particles called neutrons, which are found inside the heart of atoms. Another possibility is that the black hole could have consumed the neutron star in one flashless gulp, like Pac-Man eating a video-game dot. It's never been clear if cosmic objects with a mass in that range could exist. "We don't know what it is and this is why it is so exciting because it really does change our field".
Either way, if GW190814 is an ultra-heavy neutron star "perhaps even new physics would be required to explain it", Rory Smith, an astrophysicist at Monash University in Australia, told CNET.
"We don't know how the nuclear strong force operates under the extreme conditions you need inside a neutron star".
Scientists expect more discoveries like this one in the coming years, after a new gravitational-wave observatory called the Kamioka Gravitational-wave Detector (KAGRA) comes online.More news: India permits use of low-cost steroid to treat Covid patients