JUN 25, 2020 11:44 AM PDT

Did Scientists Just Discover the Smallest Black Hole Known to Man?

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

An array of antennas in the US and Italy, known as the International LIGO-Virgo Collaboration, received some unusual readings in August last year. Scientists are now debating whether the readings indicate the smallest black hole known to man or the heaviest neutron star. 

On August 14th, 2019, scientists received readings of a gravitational wave that indicated an unusual collision between two seemingly mismatched objects. While the larger one was indisputably a black hole, at around 23 times the mass of the sun, the other object was unknown, at 2.6 times the mass of the sun.

While black holes less than five times the mass of the sun have never been detected, researchers assume that neutron stars can not exceed 2.5 times the solar mass. Objects between 2.5 and 5 times the mass of the sun thus perplex scientists, as they have never been detected before.

Black holes are thought to form when any amount of mass is compressed tightly enough to collapse into a singularity. While black holes could, in theory, be lighter than the mass of five suns, until now, no examples have been found. 

Meanwhile, aside from black holes, neutron stars are the densest known celestial objects. Like black holes, they are also left after older stars' supernova explosions. Until now, however, the largest neutron star detected was just 2.14 times the sun's mass. 

While preliminary explanations say that dense, active cores of hot galaxies may be able to generate lopsided pairs of celestial objects, scientists say that it is difficult to be sure about what was observed. 

"What we know for sure and so far is that the universe is firmly telling us that we are still missing most of the story on the formation and evolution of compact objects," says Mario Spera, a Virgo researcher based Northwestern University. 


Sources: Live Science, Engadget, Space

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
You May Also Like
SEP 08, 2020
Space & Astronomy
New Drug May Allow Astronauts to Spend Years in Space
SEP 08, 2020
New Drug May Allow Astronauts to Spend Years in Space
Without gravity from Earth, muscles and bones tend to weaken quickly. To combat this, astronauts usually need to spend t ...
SEP 10, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Could There Be Life on Venus?
SEP 10, 2020
Could There Be Life on Venus?
Venus is the hottest planet in our solar system, reaching 465 degrees Celcius- a temperature hot enough to melt lead. Wh ...
OCT 07, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Discovery of Phosphine on Venus - What Does It Mean?
OCT 07, 2020
Discovery of Phosphine on Venus - What Does It Mean?
A Nature Astronomy paper in September, titled "Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus", has led t ...
NOV 13, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Researchers Observe the Birth of a Magnetar
NOV 13, 2020
Researchers Observe the Birth of a Magnetar
Scientists think they have witnessed the birth of a magnetar for the first time, when a massive burst of gamma rays took ...
JAN 08, 2021
Space & Astronomy
New Findings Suggest Dark Matter Doesn't Exist
JAN 08, 2021
New Findings Suggest Dark Matter Doesn't Exist
The existence of dark matter has been considered a 'given' for decades as a way to understand some of the less e ...
JAN 13, 2021
Space & Astronomy
The Eruption of an "Extra-Galactic Old Faithful"
JAN 13, 2021
The Eruption of an "Extra-Galactic Old Faithful"
We know that geysers like Old Faithful can erupt on a predictable schedule, and now researchers have learned more about ...
Loading Comments...