For the first time in history, a team of scientists has revealed conclusive evidence of a black hole swallowing a neutron star.
On August 14, 2019, gravitational wave detection devices in the United States and Italy captured waves in space and time from a catastrophic event that occurred about 8,550 million trillion kilometers away from Earth. The event was of unique origin; black hole released a massive noise that traveled in the form of waves across the universe.
The ripples in the fabric of spacetimes passed through the planet where scientists detected them, revealed a never-before-seen type of cosmic collision. It was a cosmic phenomenon that was felt across the cosmos.
Professor Susan Scott, of the ANU (Australian National University) Research School of Physics, said the achievement completed the trifecta of team observations on her original wishlist, which included the merger of two black holes and the collision of two neutron stars.
“About 900 million years ago, this black hole ate a very dense star, known as a neutron star, like Pac-man – possibly snuffing out the star instantly,” explained Professor Scott, Leader of the General Relativity Theory and Data Analysis Group at ANU and a Chief Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav).
“The ANU SkyMapper Telescope responded to the detection alert and scanned the entire likely region of space where the event occurred, but we’ve not found any visual confirmation.”
The discovery is a sensational one, and the plethora of data gathered by experts is still being analyzed in order to confirm the exact size of both cosmic objects. The event was spotted by both the LIGO and Virgo observatories.
The results of the data analysis are expected to be peer-reviewed and accepted for publication.
“Scientists have never detected a black hole smaller than five solar masses or a neutron star larger than about 2.5 times the mass of our Sun,” Professor Scott said.
“Based on this experience, we’re very confident that we’ve just detected a black hole gobbling up a neutron star.
“However, there is the slight but intriguing possibility that the swallowed object was a very light black hole – much lighter than any other black hole we know about in the Universe. That would be a truly awesome consolation prize.”
Gravitational waves were predicted more than a century ago by Albert Einstein. But it was until 2015 when astronomers detected gravitational waves for the first time, as the Ligo observatory spotted the signal created by two black holes merging into one.
Since then both LIGO in the US and Virgo in Europe have been detecting massive black holes becoming one, and neutron stars colliding.
If the new event is actually cofired as a black hole-neutron star merger as scientists expect, it would be the third distinct kind of cosmic collision detected using Einstein’s predicted Gravitational waves.