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LIGO/Virgo’s Newest Merger Defies Mass Expectations

2 Sep 2020, 12:00 UTC
LIGO/Virgo’s Newest Merger Defies Mass Expectations
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Been waiting for new signals to be parsed from LIGO/Virgo’s third observing run data? Wait no longer! The latest detection announced in Physical Review Letters and ApJ Letters is big news — both figuratively and literally. The two black holes that merged in GW190521 are the most massive we’ve observed yet, and this has major astrophysical implications.
The Signal
Most recent version of the “stellar graveyard”, a plot that shows the masses of the different components of observed compact binary mergers. GW190521, seen at the top center, is more massive than any other binary merger we’ve observed. Click to enlarge. [LIGO-Virgo/Northwestern U./Frank Elavsky & Aaron Geller]On May 21, 2019, the LIGO/Virgo gravitational-wave observatories detected a strong signal in all three of their detectors. After the conclusion of the observing run and careful analysis of the waves, the collaboration is now announcing GW190521 as an official detection of the inspiral and merger of two extremely massive black holes.
This signal is unique, record-breaking, and extremely intriguing for two reasons. First, the final product of the merger is ~142 times the mass of the Sun, which places it firmly in the category of elusive intermediate-mass black holes. And second, the two merging ...

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