Scientists have found evidence that either the biggest neutron star or the smallest black hole has collided with another black hole

The object is heavier than the presumed 2.5-solar-mass cap on neutron star size, but smaller than the most lightweight black hole ever observed.


Scientists have always been in a quest of knowing new things about events taking place in space. Last year in August, they observed unique gravitational wave using fine-tuned lasers in the US and Italy - LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave detectors. The ripples revealed a distant collision between a black hole and a mystery object. The two objects are said to have spiralled towards each other and eventually merged, generating ripples in spacetime.

The mystery object appears too massive to be a neutron star but not big enough to be a black hole.

However, a new study, published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, suggests that a black hole about 23 times as massive as the sun collided with an object of about 2.6 solar masses.

 Scientists have found evidence that either the biggest neutron star or the smallest black hole has collided with another black hole

A black hole devours another celestial object. Representational Image. Image credit: Dana Berry/NASA

The compact object is heavier than the presumed 2.5-solar-mass cap on neutron star size, but smaller than the most lightweight black hole ever observed.

“We have [here] either the heaviest known neutron star … or we have the lightest known black hole,” says Cole Miller, an astrophysicist at the University of Maryland in College Park not involved in the work.

Rory Smith, an astrophysicist at Monash University in Australia, said that he has been in LIGO for just over 10 years and this is one of the most exciting events he has seen.

The observation by researchers shows GW190814 pair collided around in a deep corner of space, 800 million light-years away.

What generally happens is that when extreme astronomical objects like black holes and neutron stars collide, they send out waves across the cosmos.

"It's hard to explain how either a black hole or a neutron star could be around 2.6 solar masses," Smith said.

The researchers say the event is rare, adding that they have seen only one during their three years of observation.

The LIGO and Virgo detectors were shut down in March due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and they have not started functioning again.

When the detectors resume work, the scientists expect to see not only more systems like GW190814, but probably other unexpected sources of gravitational waves too.


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