Astronomers have discovered a “tsunami” of gravitational waves. Now we know their origin

Astronomers have drawn a large set of events with black holes.

The latest series of observed gravitational waves was the largest collection to date, with a colossal 35 gravitational waves observed in five months, between November 2019 and March 2020, using LIGO-Virgo interferometers, according to a recent study shared on a prepress server.

Taking the average, this means that nearly 1.7 gravitational waves per week have been identified. And this is a sharp jump in the frequency of the average weekly value of 1.5 events identified during the previous cycle, increasing the total number of events detected after the first in September 2015 to 90.

Astronomers are adding another 35 gravitational waves from black hole mergers

“These findings represent a tenfold increase in the number of gravitational waves detected by LIGO and Virgo since they began observing,” said Susan Scott, an astrophysicist at the Australian National University. blog post by the institution. “We found 35 events. This is huge! In contrast, we made three sightings in our first observation, which lasted four months in 2015-16. This is indeed a new era of gravitational wave detection and the growing population of discoveries has revealed so much information about the life and death of stars in the whole universe.”

Thirty-two of the 35 additional discoveries were probably created by mergers of pairs of black holes, which occurs when two black holes move within a sufficiently close orbit so that their mutual gravitational forces can pull them into each other. The collision is extremely violent, sending blinding light far beyond the visible spectrum and twisting the very fabric of space-time into colossal waves that can span unimaginable distances. Then there is only one, giant black hole left: the sum of the previous two. And gravitational waves continue outward like waves in a pond, all the way to Earth, where astronomers can observe the event and analyze the properties of the now-united black holes.

Pressing in the upper mass gap of the black holes

The latest series of observed black holes covers a wide range of black hole masses, the most massive of which is approximately 87 times larger than the solar one. This merges with another, which is 61 times larger than the solar mass, and the new one, which is formed by the collision, is 141 times larger than the solar mass. This giant event was called GW200220_061928. Another merger event created a black hole 104 times the mass of the sun. Both cases fall into the class of intermediate black holes, which includes those with a mass of 100 to one million times the solar. A few black holes of this size were found.

The event, which produced a black hole 141 times the size of the solar mass, was also remarkable because it saw the fusion of black holes falling into the upper mass of black holes. This describes the range of black holes with masses over 65 times the solar mass that scientists believe cannot be formed by a single star. In other words, if the black hole is too massive, it is it has already swallowed other massive bodies, probably another black hole. This series of observations is infinitely fascinating and there is much more to explore in the prepress study. But as gravitational wave detectors continue to study death and the merging of black holes, we learn more about how the most violent and mysterious forces in the universe arise.

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