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Scientists find cosmic object that may reshape our understanding of the biggest stars in the Universe

23/06/2020

Scientists find cosmic object that may reshape our understanding of the biggest stars in the Universe

Scientists working on an international experiment, part-funded by UKRI’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), have discovered a massive object in space that may change our understanding of the largest stars in the Universe.

When the biggest stars die, they collapse under their own gravity and leave behind black holes; when stars with less mass die, they explode in a supernova and leave behind dense, dead remnants, called neutron stars.

On August 14 last year, the US-based National Science Foundation's Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), part -funded by the STFC, and the European Virgo detector picked up a gravitational wave signal from the merger of two astronomical objects. Gravitational waves are ripples in space caused by massive cosmic events such as the collision of black holes or the explosion of supernovae.

The discovery challenges current theoretical models. More cosmic observations and research will need to be undertaken, to establish whether this new object is indeed something that has never been observed before or whether it may instead be the lightest black hole ever detected.

The detections were only made possible by combining UK technology, sustained international funding, and enormous dedication and hard work by more than a thousand scientists from around the world. The LIGO Scientific Collaboration comprises over 1000 scientists from 17 countries, and includes researchers from ten UK universities (Glasgow, Birmingham, Cardiff, Strathclyde, West of Scotland, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Cambridge, King College London and Southampton).

Read the full story on the STFC website.


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