Why We’re Seeing More Gravitational Wave Events Than Ever Before


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Why We’re Seeing More Gravitational Wave Events Than Ever Before

Why We’re Seeing More Gravitational Wave Events Than Ever Before

LIGO and Virgo recently updated their gravitational-wave catalog with 39 new discoveries, including signals that could help us probe unresolved mysteries about the universe further than ever before.

On May 21, 2019, LIGO and Virgo detected gravitational waves generated by two huge black holes, one at around 66 solar masses and the other at a gigantic 85 solar masses. They combined to form a black hole with a mass around 142 times that of our sun, making it the first ever directly observed intermediate black hole.

It exists in the size range between stellar mass black holes that form when stars collapse and the supermassive black holes found at the center of galaxies. Even the existence of the 85 solar mass black hole is interesting, because scientists think there should be a gap in the spectrum of black holes between 65 and 120 solar masses. A phenomenon called pair-instability should prevent stars from collapsing and forming black holes in this range, so that 85 solar mass black hole could call our understanding of stellar evolution into question.

These 39 new gravitational wave events certainly give us a lot to ponder, but remember that’s just from the first half of observing run 3. Unfortunately, the second half had to be cut a month short because of COVID-19, but with observing runs 4 and 5 still planned for some time in the near future, and the inclusion of data from detectors in Japan and India, expect to see a lot more interesting discoveries from the laser interferometers of the world.


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