Thursday, May 26

Neutron stars are the preferred diet of some black holes

Neutron stars are the preferred diet of some black holes

Neutron stars are the preferred diet of some black holes

Astronomers from the international scientific collaboration groups LIGO, Virgo and KAGRA have discovered through gravitational waves two examples of a binary system never before detected: in them, two black holes devour their companions, the neutron stars. The unusual phenomenon could provide details about still unexplored areas of the cosmos.

The first event occurred around 900 million years ago, between a black hole with a mass equivalent to almost 9 solar masses and a neutron star with almost 2 solar masses. The second merger occurred approximately 1 billion years ago, involving a black hole equivalent to 5.7 solar masses and a neutron star with a magnitude of 1.5 masses of the Sun.

According to a Press release of the Max Planck Institute, one of the scientific institutions that participated in the study, the peculiarity of the finding lies in the fact that so far only gravitational waves had been detected from binary systems in which two black holes, or failing that, a pair of stars neutrons, fused and integrated. It is the first time that this type of mixed cosmic phenomenon has been recorded..

According to the results of the study, published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, the events were recorded on January 5, 2020 and January 15 of the same year, only ten days apart. Although no light was observed, the gravitational wave emissions were clear enough to confirm both mergers, which could help to understand the nature and origin of this class of binary systems.

One fusion per month

A neutron star is a variety of stellar remnant that is born as a result of the gravitational collapse of a supermassive star. When the latter exhausts the fuel present in its nucleus, it explodes spectacularly and generates a supernova. The debris from the monumental explosion will create a neutron star.

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They are characterized by being a reservoir of enormous flows of strongly compressed energy: a neutron star can contain a mass equivalent to 500,000 times the mass of the Earth, but contained in a sphere with a diameter of ten kilometers.

Although the two events detected are the first reliable observations based on gravitational waves of black holes merging with neutron stars, scientists believe that it is already possible to estimate the frequency with which these phenomena occur: they would occur approximately once a month, at a distance of one billion light years. However, much of these mergers cannot be detected with currently available technologies.

Related topic: They detect remote galaxies eaten by black holes.

After the origin and causes

What exactly would be the cause of these mixed binary systems? Specialists argue that one possibility is that stellar binary structures evolve into mixed systems over time: one of the stars would evolve into a black hole, being accompanied by a neutron star. In addition, they could be manifestations of young star systems or recently formed.

Now, new research will seek to determine with greater precision the origin and characteristics of these strange binary systems, which could clarify many doubts about the most distant regions of the universe, with respect to which there is still no accurate information.


Observation of gravitational waves from two neutron star–black hole coalescences. The LIGO Scientific Collaboration, the Virgo Collaboration, and the KAGRA Collaboration. Astrophysical Journal Letters (2021).DOI:

Photo: artistic recreation of the cosmic phenomenon: a binary system in which a black hole literally devours its companion, a neutron star. Credit: EGO (European Gravitational Observatory).

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Video: representation of a binary system compatible with GW200115, one of the two detected cosmic events in which a black hole merges with a neutron star. Credit: Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics on YouTube.

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