A Collision between a black hole and ” the mysterious object puzzles astronomers


GW190814: A black hole and a neutron star collide, or something even more unusual? Carl Knox/OzGrav ARC Centre of Excellence

On August. 14, 2019, a gravitational wave — a huge ripple through the fabric of space-time-washed over the Earth. The wave was detected by a sophisticated, development of lasers in the united states and Italy. And it was amazing. Then the lasers had already picked up black hole collisions and the collisions of neutron starsthey were now suggesting something unprecedented: a black hole, shattering a neutron star.

The signal was one of the strongest ever seen by the gravitational-wave scientists from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory and the Italy of the Virgin of the observatory. After an alert has been sent, a few moments after the detection, the teams of astronomers around the world to their telescopes to the point in space that the wave that had emanated from.

But their searches came up empty. No light, no X rays, no infrared, no gamma rays.

The event was confusing. And it became more confusing as scientists have begun to study closely the data. On Tuesday, researchers from the LIGO and Virgo collaborations details of their comprehensive analysis of gravitational-wave detection, nicknamed GW190814, in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. This is the first detailed study of the epic of cosmic collision, and it only deepens the mystery.

“GW190814 is, I think, the first time, we have observed gravitational waves, where the source of the waves is really confusing,” said Rory Smith, an astrophysicist from Monash University in Australia. “I’ve been in LIGO for a little over 10 years now, and this is certainly one of the most exciting events that we have seen. ”

The key to the research are two LIGO facilities, and of the Virgin facility, which can detect gravitational waves. Extreme astronomical objects, like black holes and neutron stars to send waves through the cosmos when they collide. The facilities are essentially listens to the sounds of the massive cosmic beasts collide with each other, and then working backward to understand their physical characteristics.

Smith and his colleagues have worked on the simulation of these types of collisions with the help of supercomputers, which help to perform the back-calculation and can infer that the objects are, their masses and their comings and goings.

“We use fancy parallelized algorithms which can run our analyses on a supercomputer cluster containing several hundreds or thousands of individual computers,” he said. “The execution of the same analysis on your laptop would have taken about 50 to 100 years. ”

The observations show GW190814 pair collided in a deep corner of space, to 800 million light-years. Half of the pair is certainly a black hole, about 23 times more massive than our sun. But his dance partner is mysterious, the other object is only about 2.6 times more massive than our sun, which puts it in a weird position.

“This is something that has not been seen before “, said Hannah Middleton, an astrophysicist from the University of Melbourne. It could a neutron star, the possibility is still on the table, but it can also be a black hole. Middleton said he is a “mystery” … but it is also a light problem.

“It is difficult to explain how a black hole or a neutron star could be of approximately 2.6 solar masses),” notes Smith.

Scientists have never detected a black hole that is so light. Neutron stars are not expected to be heavy — they fall into black holes when they get too big. Therefore, the mysterious object that seems to be a kind of loop of the gold star which does not correspond to our current understanding. Whatever it turns out to be, it will rewrite our knowledge of one of the two extreme objects.

Curiously, if it’s an ultra-heavy neutron star, Smith said, ” maybe even a new physics would be necessary to explain it. “If it is a bit of a black hole, then our understanding of the way in which the light-hungry cosmic beasts form will be rewritten. It is a win-win scenario for science.

GW190814 is only the second time that a gravitational wave detection has found a significant difference in the mass of the objects. A collision between two black holes detected on 12 April 2019 and nicknamed GW190412, showed a mass difference of more than 20 solar masses. These large differences are very useful: They allow researchers to test Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. The two GW190814 and GW190412 fit with Einstein’s predictions — so we have not broken the physical (yet).

GW190814 is exceptionally rare. We have seen that one of these events in the three years of observation, and that it will be some time before you find a little more. The LIGO and Virgo detectors have been closed since the month of March, the end of their last observation very early on because of the coronavirus in the event of a pandemic and will not be back online until the end of next year.

“Our detectors are currently being upgraded, so that they will be more sensitive when they turn on,” said Smith. “At this stage, we expect to see not only the systems of GW190814, but probably other unexpected sources of gravitational waves too. ”

That leaves a lot of room to try to explain the mysterious object. Is it a black hole? Is it a neutron star?

“Theorists have a lot of fun to work in front of them to try to explain GW190814! , “said Smith.

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