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Current Affairs

Merging of two black holes

Date: 04 September 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

Scientists have announced the discovery of a black hole, the oldest ever detected, that shouldn't even exist according to the current understanding of cosmic theory.

 

Background

Born of a merger between two other black holes, GW190521 weighs in at 142 times the mass of our Sun and is the first “intermediate mass” black hole ever observed

 

Details

  • Supermassive black holes found at the centre of most galaxies, including the Milky Way, range from millions to billions of solar masses.

  • Up to now, black holes with mass 100 to 1,000 times that of our Sun had never been found.

  • Gravitational waves were proposed by Albert Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity over a century ago. It was only in 2015, however, that the first gravitational wave was actually detected

  • The findings support the idea that supermassive black holes could be formed through the repeated merger of these mid-sized bodies.

  • What scientists actually observed were gravitational waves produced more than seven billion years ago when GW190521 was formed by the collision of two smaller black holes of 85 and 65 solar masses.

  • When they smashed together, eight solar masses worth of energy was released, creating one of the most powerful events in the Universe since the Big Bang.

  • GW190521 was detected on May 21, 2019 by three interferometers, which can measure a change thousands of times smaller than an atomic nucleus as gravitational waves pass Earth.

  • The signal likely represented the instant that the two merged. It was calculated to have come from roughly 17 billion light years away, and from a time when the universe was about half its age.

  • In the merger leading to the GW190521 signal, the larger black hole was of 85 solar masses —well within this unexpected range, known as the pair instability mass gap.

  • The two merged to create a new black hole of about 142 solar masses. Energy equivalent to eight solar masses was released in the form of gravitational waves, leading to the strongest ever wave detected by scientists so far.

  • Formed by a collision between two black holes, it is likely that the new black hole then merged with the 66-solar-mass black hole, leading to gravitational waves and the signal received by LIGO and Virgo.