Scientists have announced the detection of a signal from a long-ago collision between two black holes that created a new one of a size never seen before.
“It’s the biggest bang since the big bang observed by humanity,” said Caltech professor of physics Alan Weinstein, who was part of the discovery team.
Black holes are compact regions of space so densely packed that not even light can escape them. Until now, astronomers only had observed them in two general sizes: “small” ones called stellar black holes that are formed when a star collapses and are about the size of small cities, and supermassive black holes that are millions, perhaps billions, of times more massive than our sun and around which entire galaxies revolve.
According to astronomers’ calculations, anything in between didn’t quite make sense, because stars that grew too big before collapse would essentially consume themselves, leaving no black hole.
Star collapses could not create stellar black holes much bigger than 70 times the mass of our sun, scientists thought, according to physicist Nelson Christensen, research director of the Artemis research unit at the French National Centre for Scientific Research.