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The biggest black hole collision ever recorded

Credits : Keio University

A team of astronomers announced that they have detected four new cases of black hole collisions in space, thanks to the spread of gravitational waves.  One of these collisions is the biggest ever recorded.  

In February 2016, researchers from LIGO ((Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) announced the first detection of gravitational waves, therefore opening the way for a new astronomical era.  Since then, other waves have been detected.  The majority are due to the fusion of supermassive black holes. More recently, during the summer of 2017,  four new cases of black hole collisions were detected.  The details of the study were published on Arxiv.

A massive collision of 5 billion light years

These collisions have led to the formation of black holes weighing several times the mass of the Sun.  They occur around 1044 and 897 billion light years from Earth.  One of the collisions, which was the biggest ever registered, would have created a black hole 80 times more massive that our Sun.  The fusion which is produced at about 5 billion light years, would have involved two black holes of about 50.6 and 34.3 solar masses.  However there could even by a third involved…

Scientists don’t think stars collapsing can result in black holes heavier than 45 solar masses, explained Imre Bartos, assistant professor at Florida University, USA and main author of this study. Plus, it appeared to spin quickly. Perhaps this anomalous observation came from two black holes that merged, and then later merged with a third black hole, in a black hole-rich environment, he continued. Such environments even seem to exist near the center of our own galaxy.

trous noirs ondes gravitationnelles
Two black holes colliding. Credits: The Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

Black holes frequently collide

These events apparently happen more frequently that we might have imagined.  Each year, there are supposedly a dozen black hole collision is each gigaparsec cube of the Universe.  If you want to imagine a gigaparsec think of a section of the sky in which each side measures 3.2 billion light years. This is an estimation which should continue to be refined in years to come.   “With more events coming once LIGO and Virgo turn back on… we will know more about how often such ‘double’ mergers could happen,” explained the researcher.

With these 4 new cases, gravitational waves have now bought 10 cases of black hole collisions to light.  It should also be highlighted that only a few months ago astronomers detected the fusion of stars and neutrons through gravitational waves following collisions. LIGO and Virgo instruments should be back in service this spring for a third round of analysis.


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