Gravitational waves show black hole and mystery 'mass gap' object merge in space

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Australian researchers are part of an international team investigating the space 'merger'.
A mysterious astronomical object merged with a black hole 780 million light-years away and created gravitational waves that could be detected on Earth.

The object exists inside what scientists call the "mass gap", a range between the heaviest known neutron star and the lightest known black hole.

And it could change how astronomers understand black holes.

In August 2019, astronomers using gravitational wave detectors in the US and Italy detected ripples in space and time, a gravitational wave event they dubbed GW190814.

Given the fact that this occurred so far from Earth, the event occurred 780 million years ago, but the gravitational waves are just now reaching us.

The merger occurred between an object that was 2.6 times the mass of our sun with a black hole that was 23 times the mass of our sun.

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This large difference in the sizes of both objects, differing by a factor of nine, makes it the most extreme mass ratio for a gravitational wave event known to date.

The merger led to a black hole about 25 times the mass of the sun.

Some of the mass was blasted out as gravitational waves.

This image shows what happens as two objects of different masses merge together and create gravitational waves. Credit: Wonders of the Universe / CNN

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, and Virgo were used to detect the event.

The National Science Foundation's LIGO includes two detectors - one in Livingston, Louisiana, and another in Hanford, Washington. The Virgo detector is located in Cascina, Italy.

Black holes are created when massive stars die and collapse.

Stars that are less massive explode in a supernova.

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