Science Gazette

A very unusual black hole merger has been detected


Scientists think they’ve found evidence of a merging of two black holes with erratic orbits. This may explain why certain earlier black hole mergers are significantly more massive than previously assumed.

Scientists think they have discovered a merging of two black holes with eccentric orbits for the first time. This can help explain why some of the black hole mergers detected by LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration are much heavier than previously thought possible, according to a paper published in Nature Astronomy by researchers from Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation and the University of Florida.

Eccentric orbits are a clue that black holes may be swallowing up other black holes during accidental encounters in heavily populated locations like galactic centers. The researchers looked at GW190521, the most massive gravitational wave pair yet discovered, to see whether it had eccentric orbits.

“The estimated masses of the black holes are more than 70 times the size of our sun apiece,” said Carlos Lousto, a member of the CCRG and professor in the School of Mathematical Sciences. “As a second-generation binary black hole system, this is an intriguing situation to investigate, and it offers up new possibilities for black hole creation scenarios in dense star clusters.”

Professor and CCRG Director Manuela Campanelli, Associate Professor Richard O’Shaughnessy, and collaborators from the University of Florida formed a team of RIT researchers, including Lousto, Research Associate James Healy, Jacob Lange ’20 Ph.D. (astrophysical sciences and technology), Professor and CCRG Director Manuela Campanelli, Associate Professor Richard O’Shaughnessy, and collaborators from the University of Florida, to take a fresh look at the data to see if They discovered that a high-eccentricity, precessing model best explains the merging. To do this, the researchers ran hundreds of new full numerical simulations on supercomputers at local and national labs, which took about a year to complete.

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“This is a significant step forward in our knowledge of how black holes combine,” Campanelli added. “We are making new discoveries about the cosmos at surprising speeds thanks to our advanced supercomputer simulations and the plethora of fresh data given by LIGO and Virgo’s fast developing detectors.”

The cosmic Hubble constant with GW150521 as an eccentric binary black hole merger was computed separately by the same RIT and UFL team using a putative electromagnetic counterpart detected by the Zwicky Transient Facility. They discovered good agreement with predicted values and published their findings in the Astrophysical Journal recently.

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