Scientists puzzle over the mysterious astrophysical object: have they discovered the heaviest neutron star or the lightest black hole ever observed?’ CREDIT: Carl Knox, ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav)
Original Published Date: 
Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Full article issued by Swinburne University.

The LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave observatories, in conjunction with The ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) have announced the detection of gravitational waves caused by the collision of a black hole, weighing up to 25 times the mass of the Sun, accompanied by a mysterious astrophysical object. Researchers predict the object is likely to be either a dense star, or another black hole; however, its mass contradicts this theory: it’s heavier than expected for a neutron star and lighter than a black hole. 

Understanding what caused the gravitational waves is a classic ‘big data’ challenge for scientists. Rory Smith, an astronomer from OzGrav at Monash University, who contributed to the study explains: “Figuring out the origin of these gravitational waves required the use of thousands of computers for several months to churn through all the data. Gravitational-wave astronomy is at the bleeding edge of supercomputing, and Australia is a world leader in our field.” 

The cosmic event called GW190814, observed on 14 August 2019, was accompanied by a mysterious astrophysical object—around 2.5 times the mass of the Sun. It could be either the heaviest neutron star or the lightest black hole ever observed—either way, it could radically alter researchers' understanding of nuclear matter in the densest, most extreme environments in the Universe. Ozgrav scientists hope to soon unravel the mystery with more gravitational-wave observations in the future.

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Scientists puzzle over the mysterious astrophysical object: have they discovered the heaviest neutron star or the lightest black hole ever observed?’ CREDIT: Carl Knox, ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav).