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The Source of GW150914: Stellar Mass Black Holes

8 Apr 2016, 21:23 UTC
The Source of GW150914: Stellar Mass Black Holes
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On September 14th, 2015, LIGO made the first direct detection of gravitational waves. This event is labeled GW150914 (referring to the year, month, and day of the detection). The objects that produced the GW150914 were a pair of stellar mass black holes that orbited each other and gradually moved closer and closer together over the course of eons. The closer together they became, the faster they orbited around each other and the stronger the gravitational waves produced. LIGO detected the last 0.4 seconds of these stars orbiting until they became so close they merged into a single black hole.While we saw the death of this paired (binary) system, we didn't get to observe other parts of its life. Where did these black holes come from? To answer this question, we need to apply what we know about stellar evolution. STELLAR MASS BLACK HOLES ARE CORPSESThere are several classes of black holes, determined by their mass and how they were formed: stellar mass black holes, intermediate mass black holes, and supermassive black holes. For stellar mass black holes, they formed when the most massive of stars (more than 15-20 times the mass of our Sun) run out of nuclear fuel and ...

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