May 18, 2024



Gravitational waves reveal the first known mergers of a black hole and neutron star


Caught in a fatal inward spiral, a neutron star met its end when a black hole swallowed it whole. Gravitational ripples from that collision spread outward through the cosmos, eventually reaching Earth. The detection of those waves marks the first reported sighting of a black hole engulfing the dense remnant of dead star. And in a surprise twist, scientists spotted a second such merger just days after the first.

Until now, all identified sources of gravitational waves were twos of a kind: either two black holes or two neutron stars, spiraling around one another before colliding and coalescing (SN: 1/21/21). The violent cosmic collisions create waves that stretch and squeeze the fabric of spacetime, undulations that can be sussed out by sensitive detectors.

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