20:49 GMT18 September 2020
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    One of the members of the LIGO Collaboration described the new find as "the first glimpse of what could be a whole new population of compact binary objects".

    An enigmatic object discovered in the depths of space might help scientists finally solve a certain mystery related to black holes, the Independent reports.

    According to the newspaper, as the heaviest known neutron star is about 2.5 times the size of the sun and the lightest known black hole is about 5 times the size of the sun, researchers were left wondering why it is so difficult to find objects that sit in the resulting "mass gap" - until now.

    The object in question, whose mass is about 2.6 times that of the sun, was in fact discovered last year via the Virgo and LIGO observatories when it merged with a black hole of some 23 solar masses, with the find being reported in a recently published paper.

    "We’ve been waiting decades to solve this mystery," said professor at Northwestern University named Vicky Kalogera. "We don’t know if this object is the heaviest known neutron star, or the lightest known black hole, but either way it breaks a record."

    Study co-author Patrick Brady, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and spokesman for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, argued that the new discovery "is going to change how scientists talk about neutron stars and black holes", suggesting that the mass gap itself might've been a product of "limitations in observational capabilities" all along.

    Professor Kalogera also remarked that the mystery object in question may be "a neutron star merging with a black hole, an exciting possibility expected theoretically but not yet confirmed observationally", while Charlie Hoy, graduate student at Cardiff University and member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, described the find as "the first glimpse of what could be a whole new population of compact binary objects".

    "What is really exciting is that this is just the start", he said. "As the detectors get more and more sensitive, we will observe even more of these signals, and we will be able to pinpoint the populations of neutron stars and black holes in the universe."

     

    Tags:
    gap, mass, discovery, object, neutron star, black hole
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