Can neutron stars fuse with black holes?

Eaten: Black hole swallows neutron star

Gravitational waves were first recorded in 2015 when the LIGO observatory intercepted a signal created by the merging of two black holes. Since then, LIGO and its European counterpart, the Virgo Observatory, have recorded further black hole mergers and the collision of two neutron stars. Both observatories also picked up the S190814bv signal. If it were actually the merger of a neutron star and a black hole, it would be the third type of collision that has been detected by gravitational waves.

The sensors already picked up signals on April 26th that could indicate such a collision. According to the researchers, however, S190814bv represents the significantly hotter trace. In events like the one in April there is a 1 in 7 chance that these could be background signals from Earth. Statistically, such a false alarm can occur every 20 months. In contrast, S190814bv is almost certainly a signal from beyond our planet. The chances that this is a false alarm are negligible.

"This is definitely cause for excitement," says LIGO team member Christopher Berry, a physicist from Northwestern University. “The probability is much higher that it is a real signal. It is therefore also worthwhile to put more time and effort into it. "

Cosmic ordeal

LIGO and Virgo traced the signal back to its place of origin - an oval area of ​​the sky about eleven times as wide as the full moon. All over the world and in Earth orbit, telescopes and other instruments have interrupted their regularly scheduled observations in order to focus their artificial eyes on this area of ​​the sky. Many of the results are made available in real time in advance.

“It's all very exciting,” says Aaron Tohuvavohu, the scientist responsible for the observation service at NASA's Swift telescope. The telescope searched the area of ​​the sky in which the origin of the gravitational waves is suspected for X-ray flashes and signals in the UV range. "I haven't slept all night and I'm very happy that I can do this."

Gallery: For the first time, pictures show how gravitational waves are created