Seven billion years ago two massive black holes collided, and signs of the cataclysmic event have just reached Earth.
Astronomers claim to have detected gravitational shockwaves emanating from chaotic merger of two black holes some seven billion years ago.
The signal which provided ‘the biggest bang since the Big Bang’ rattled laser detectors in the US and Italy, telling the story of two black holes colliding and forming a previously unknown class of the stellar phenomenon.
Black holes are compact regions of space so densely packed that not even light can escape them. Until now, astronomers had only observed two forms: Stellar black holes, which occur when a star between five and 100 times the mass of our Sun collapses, and Supermassive black holes, around which entire galaxies revolve and at their smallest are millions (sometimes billions) the size of our Sun.
Until now, black holes between these two sizes weren’t known or thought to exist, as stars that grew too big before exhausting their nuclear fuel and collapsing were believed to consume themselves by default, leaving no black hole to speak of. Salvatore Vitale, of the LIGO lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, revealed that he found it ‘baffling’ that we’ve stumbled across the first of its kind in 2020.
Welcome to #GW190521, the most massive #BlackHoles merger observed yet by @LIGO and @ego_virgo – and our first clear detection of an Intermediate Mass #BlackHole #MostMassiveYet #imbh #GravitationalWaves.
Read lots more at https://t.co/LrUU9qMZ8o pic.twitter.com/syX9DdRPRy
— LIGO (@LIGO) September 2, 2020