Scientists catch 1st glimpse of a black hole swallowing a neutron star
After more than four years of exploring a menagerie of cosmic happenings through gravitational waves, scientists have finally spotted the third expected variety of collision, between a black hole and a neutron star.
Science & Tech
"These were not events where the black holes munched on the neutron stars like the Cookie Monster and flung bits and pieces about," one physicist said.
After more than four years of exploring a menagerie of cosmic happenings through gravitational waves, scientists have finally spotted the third expected variety of collision — twice.
The new flavor of collision includes one black hole and one neutron star, making it a mash-up of sorts. Scientists have observed dozens of mergers of pairs of black holes, and a couple mergers of pairs of neutron stars, the superdense stellar corpses. But a crash between a black hole and neutron star, while predicted by scientists, had not been definitively detected.
Now, researchers say they have done just that, observing the unique ripples in space-time caused by such a collision.
"With this new discovery of neutron star-black hole mergers outside our galaxy, we have found the missing type of binary," Astrid Lamberts, a CNRS researcher at Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur in France, said in a statement. "We can finally begin to understand how many of these systems exist, how often they merge, and why we have not yet seen examples in the Milky Way."