A computer simulation shows the distortion of space cause by gravity waves generated in the merger of two black holes, one 3 percent more massive than the other. The simulation mirrors an actual merger detected last May that produced a 142-solar-mass black hole, the first such intermediate-mass black hole to be discovered. Image: N. Fischer, H. Pfeiffer, A. Buonanno (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics), Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) Collaboration
The LIGO and VIRGO gravitational wave observatories have detected ripples in space-time lasting just a tenth of a second that indicate the merger of two black holes with 85 and 65 solar masses. The result was a single black hole with 142 times the Sun’s mass, the first direct evidence of an intermediate-mass black hole, one that weighs in at 100 and 100,000 solar masses.
While multiple black hole mergers have been detected by gravitational waves since the first was observed in 2015, the 142-solar-mass hole in this case – GW190521 – is the most massive and most distant yet found. Eight solar masses were converted into energy in the collision, creating the gravitational waves that reached Earth on 21 May 2019, seven billion years after the fact.
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