The merging of two neutron stars may have created one of the most interesting black holes ever recorded, according to recent research published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Last year, the U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Europe-based Virgo detector detected a collision between two neutron stars that was so strong it generated gravitational waves.
Such an event had never been witnessed before. Though that alone made the merger worthy of study, it was also significant because it may have created the lowest mass black hole ever found.
In the study, scientists from Trinity University analyzed data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory taken before the technology noticed the gravitational waves in August 2017.
Matching that against data taken from LIGO, the team estimated the mass of the object created by the star merger has roughly 2.7 times the solar mass. That suggests it is either the lowest mass black hole or the highest mass neutron star ever recorded.
However, as a heavy neutron star would have produced both a strong magnetic field and X-rays — neither of which the team detected during their research — it is likely the collision led to a black hole.
“Astronomers have long suspected that neutron star mergers would form a black hole and produce bursts of radiation, but we lacked a strong case for it until now,” said study co-author Pawan Kumar, a researcher at the University of Texas, in a statement.
Though this study is compelling, it does not give definitive evidence that the merger created a neutron star. More research needs to be done on the event, including both X-ray and radio observations, before any hard conclusions can be reached.
“If the remnant is a rapidly rotating magnetized neutron star, the total energy in the external shock should rise by a factor ~102 (to ~1052 erg) after a few years; therefore, Chandra observations over the next year or two that do not show substantial brightening will rule out such a remnant,” the team wrote in their study, according to Tech Times.