Scientists say the merger of two black holes detected at a distance of more than 16 billion light-years has created the biggest burst of gravitational waves ever detected.
The disturbance in spacetime was picked up on May 21, 2019, by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, also known as LIGO, and the Virgo gravitational-wave detector in Italy. The unusual event and its implications are described in papers published today by Physical Review Letters and The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
“This doesn’t look much like a chirp, which is what we typically detect,” Nelson Christensen, an astrophysicist at the French National Center for Scientific Research, said in a news release. “This is more like something that goes ‘bang,’ and it’s the most massive signal LIGO and Virgo have seen.”
Christensen and his colleagues say the signal, known as GW190521, appears to have come from the violent collision of two spinning black holes with masses about 85 and 66 times the mass of our sun.
The merger created an even bigger black hole, about 142 times as massive as the sun. It also released the equivalent of eight solar masses in the form of gravitational-wave energy, in accordance with Albert Einstein’s E=mc2 formula, the ...