Scientists have revealed that they detected four black hole collisions, one of which is to date the largest they have observed. They also detected ripples in space and time known as gravitational waves from these black hole mergers.
Biggest Black Hole Collision Observed
Susan Scott, from Australian National University, said that her team discovered the collisions by re-analyzing data from the first two observing runs of the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO).
Researchers detected the event that formed the largest known black hole from a merger of a binary system of two black holes in July last year.
The collision of the two black holes occurred about 9 billion light-years away and created a new black hole about 80 times more massive than the sun.
Gravitational Waves From The Powerful Merger
The merger of the two black holes, the largest ever observed, was so powerful that a mass equivalent to five times that of the sun turned into gravitational waves that reached Earth on July 29.
Gravitational waves travel at the speed of light. Based on this, researchers said that the giant crash happened 5 billion years ago, hundreds of millions of years before the Solar System formed.
"This event also had black holes spinning the fastest of all mergers observed so far. It is also by far the most distant merger observed," Scott said in a statement.
The three other black hole mergers were detected between Aug. 9 and 23, 2017. The events occurred between 3 and 6 billion light-years away. The resulting black holes ranged from 56 to 66 times more massive than the sun.
Detection Improved Understanding Of Black Holes
Scott said that the detection of the four different binary black hole systems smashing together and sending gravitational waves greatly improved their understanding on the number of binary black hole systems in the universe, the range of their masses, and the speed at which black holes spin during a merger.
"As the binary black hole catalog grows in future observing runs, we expect that uncertainties in the population model parameters will shrink, potentially providing insights into the formation of black holes via supernovae, binary interactions of massive stars, stellar cluster dynamics, and the formation history of black holes across cosmic time," the researchers said.
The findings will be published in Physical Review X.