In the world of astronomy, the black holes we have found usually come in two different categories: stellar black holes which have masses within the region of five times its stellar-mass and supermassive black holes with masses millions or billions the mass of our Sun. Within that middle range lies what is known as intermediate-mass black holes, which has never been spotted before — until now.
Working with the Laser Interferometry Gravitational Wave Observatory Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration, an international group astronomers have finally directly observed the gravitational waves of an intermediate-mass black hole some five gigaparsecs away from us, with a mass 142 times the mass of our own Sun. According to Dr. Karan Jani of Vanderbilt University, the black hole found was created by two separate, smaller black holes roughly 85 and 65 times the mass of the Sun.
“This is a milestone in modern astronomy and a personal milestone after six years of intensive research of hunting these elusive black holes,” the Professor said. “The system we’ve discovered is so bizarre that it breaks a number of previous assumptions about how black holes form.” He notes that the process for making an IMBH is 500 times rarer than that of either stellar or supermassive black holes, much like trying to hit a golf ball shot in the air from Argentina with a second golf ball all the way from China.
“We have looked into every known scenario that would have created this black hole but don’t have a conclusive explanation for it just yet,” Jani added. “What we do know for certain is that whatever makes this intermediate-mass black hole is a much rarer process. We will need to find many more to understand their origins.”
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