A group of scientists believe they have observed a black hole swallowing a neutron star for the first time ever.
Astronomers have been watching the cosmos trying to find faint ripples in space-time. These ripples are called gravitational waves, categorised as disturbances in the curvature of spacetime.
This particular gravitational wave is being labelled as S190814bv. It was detected by the US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Virgo detector in Italy.
It’s an incredibly exciting moment in astronomy because it has the potential to be the first time a black hole and neutron star have been observed together. Based on its known properties, scientists studying the phenomenon believe there’s a 99 per-cent probability that of the wave is down to that black hole eating a neutron star.
This incredible space event happened about 900 million years ago, but the ripple from the cosmic event only passed through Earth last week, as reported by National Geographic.
Neutron stars and black holes are both dense remains of dead stars, with the black hole coming out the winner in a collision due to its gravitational pull.
The LIGO facilities have seen potential black hole-neutron star collisions in the past, but none of them were adequately verified as such. There is still a small chance that it could have been two merging black holes.
Simon Stevenson, an astronomer with Swinburne University of Technology in Australia and one of the lead researchers, told CNET:
We will either see a neutron star being ripped apart by a black hole, or getting swallowed whole like Pac-Man swallowing a ghost… either way, we are in for a show!
Scientists are already planning the next steps to confirming what exactly happened 900 million years ago. They’re going to focus telescopes on the small section of the sky S190814bv came from. Doing this will help to detect any other signals that may have been emitted from the event.
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Matt Weston is a lover of electric cars, artificial intelligence and space. From Cornwall, he’s a UCLan graduate that still dreams of being a Formula One driver in the very near future. Previously work includes reporting for regional newspapers and freelance video for the International Business Times.