NASA black hole BREAKTHROUGH: Agency observes black hole SWALLOWING neutron star

Black holes are the most mysterious entities in the entire universe. The region of spacetime exhibits gravitational acceleration so strong that nothing – even light – can escape. And US space agency NASA has now directly observed a black hole’s almost-impossible power for the first time, after detecting a neutron star being devoured by a black hole.

This historic moment was marked by a “belch” of gravitational waves rippling across the universe.

The detection was made by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors in the US and the Virgo detector in Italy.

And if confirmed, the observation will offer the first evidence that black holes and neutron stars can pair up in binary systems.

It is hoped the data will eventually reveal whether the neutron star was torn apart before crossing the black hole’s event horizon or whether it was seamlessly sucked into annihilation.

Professor Patrick Brady, spokesman for the LIGO collaboration revealed further analysis was needed before the team could be confident the April 26 event was a real.

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He said: “It’s like listening to somebody whisper a word in a busy cafe, it can be difficult to make out the word or even to be sure that the person whispered at all.

“It will take some time to reach a conclusion about this candidate.”

Professor Brady put the chances of the observations being a glitch in the data at 14 percent.

LIGO and Virgo are capable of detecting tiny ripples in the fabric of spacetime that travel across the cosmos when two massive objects collide.

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The possible detection arrives only a day after LIGO and Virgo identified a cataclysmic merger of two neutron stars for only the second time.

And since the beginning of their third observational campaign is the start of this month, the detectors have also identified three black hole mergers.

Neutron stars are the smallest, densest stars known to exist, with a teaspoon of neutron star material have a mass of one billion tonnes.

They are the collapsed remnants of giant stars, after a supernova explosion – even more massive stars go on to form black holes.

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When two neutron stars collide, they not only send out gravitational waves but also light, meaning that if astronomers are able to swivel their optical telescopes to the right bit of sky in time they can also pick up the explosive aftermath in light waves.

Detecting a flash of radiation could reveal crucial details about the size of the objects and the nature of the merger.

The biggest black holes are surprisingly the least dense and the gravitational pull at the edge of these objects is least fierce, so a neutron star colliding with a very large black hole might simply vanish from view.

Prof Alberto Vecchio, director of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Gravitational Wave Astronomy, said: “The neutron star would just dive in and nothing happens, that’s it.”

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