BLACK HOLE RUNAWAY! Huge merger sees the body ejected from the galaxy and sent into the abyss | science | News

Max Planck Institute of Animation for Gravitational Physics

Black holes, as the basic definition indicates, are regions of space-time so distorted by a concentrated mass that, beyond the “event horizon,” nothing – not even light – can escape their gravity. We can detect them in various ways, including detecting the high-energy radiation emitted by matter as it spins through holes or by looking at how its gravity affects the motion of nearby objects. Physicists can also detect gravitational waves emitted when black holes merge with each other, distorting the fabric of spacetime, using so-called interferometers such as Virgo in Italy and LIGO in the United States.

Some of the black holes that physicists have seen in the universe appear to be “accelerating,” traveling much faster than expected based on theoretical predictions.

Scientists have suggested that these fast-moving black holes may have gained their energy as a result of past merger events.

According to the theory, merging black holes could be given a kick if the gravitational waves emitted during the collision were emitted mostly in one direction – which could happen if the original black holes had very uneven masses or spins.

To maintain momentum, the merged black hole bounces the other way. So far, however, physicists have had no evidence to support this theory.

An artist's impression of a black hole

Merging black holes could give massive objects a boost – and kick them out of their galaxy Image credit: Getty Images

black holes diagram

Black holes are regions of spacetime distorted by concentrated mass (Photo: Express.co.uk)

Particularly large kicks are expected when the orbital plane of the merger undergoes an initiation – a change in the direction of the spin axis – which should leave a detectable amplitude modulation in the gravitational wave signal.

In their study, physicist Dr. Vijay Varma of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam, Germany, and colleagues analyze an exciting black hole merger event dubbed “GW200129”.

This is the first evidence of a black hole merger recorded with a strong, unambiguous first-order signal in its gravitational wave signal.

The researchers compared the GW200129 signals recorded by the LIGO-Virgo detectors with predictions based on simulations of scalar relativity.

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An artist's impression of gravitational waves

Physicists can detect gravitational waves emitted when black holes merge with each other Image credit: Getty Images

Virgo demo site

Pictured: Italy’s Virgo interferometer can detect gravitational waves (Photo: Creative Commons/Virgo Collaboration)

They found that the black hole created by the merger event, which is 60 times the mass of the Sun, received a kick of about 3,355,404 miles per hour.

This far exceeds the escape velocity of most galaxies – and almost three times the speed of our own Milky Way.

Given this, the team said, the collision would likely send the last black hole out of its host galaxy.

“Given the kick’s speed, we estimate that there is at most a 0.48 percent chance that the remaining black hole of GW200129 will be held by nuclear globular star clusters,” Dr. Varma said.

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Artist's impression of a black hole merger

Compact black holes could be given a boost strong enough to eject them from the host galaxy (Photo: MIT News)

These findings may have implications for the existence of so-called “heavy black holes”, which form as a result of multiple successive black hole mergers.

However, for heavy black holes to form, mergers that end in kicks can’t be very common.

If they are repeated too often, by sending merging black holes into the vast void between galaxies, they will make subsequent collisions unlikely.

The team said that future studies should help physicists constrain the rate of so-called second-generation mergers that could help form larger black holes.

Theoretical astrophysicist Professor Saul Tokolsky of Cornell University is the leader of the Simulations of Extreme Spaces (SXS) collaboration, which this study was conducted under the auspices of.

Professor Tyukolsky said: “This research shows how gravitational wave signals can be used to learn about astrophysical phenomena in an unexpected way.

“He thought we’d have to wait over a decade for the detectors sensitive enough to do this kind of work, but this research shows we can actually do it now – it’s very exciting!”

The full results of the study were published in the journal Physical Review Letters.