Forget Game of Thrones, now we may have detected a real-life "battle" going on in outer space between a black hole and a neutron star.
Scientists this week announced not only that mind-blowing news but also said they'd detected a distant collision between a pair of neutron stars, as well as the potential mergers of three black holes.
“The universe is keeping us on our toes,” said Patrick Brady, a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in a statement.
And, much like the too-dark battle scenes in "GOT," none of this can be "seen." Rather, these collisions can be "heard" using sensitive equipment used to detect gravitational waves, the strange ripples in space-time first foreseen by Albert Einstein a century ago,
Gravitational waves occur when neutron stars collide and are detected using both the USA's mammoth LIGO observatory and Italy's Virgo observatory. This is the third observational campaign of the two groups, which began on April 1.
Neutron stars are small yet incredibly dense stellar objects, and are the collapsed remains of imploded stars. Black holes are also collapsed stars with gravity so strong that even light cannot escape their grasp. Scientists last month captured the first-ever photo of a black hole.
The neutron star-black hole collision is estimated to have taken place in a distant galaxy, roughly 1.2 billion light-years away, according to the National Science Foundation.
This is "further evidence that our universe regularly rings with the aftershocks of colossal astronomical events,” said Professor Sheila Rowan, director of the University of Glasgow’s Institute for Gravitational Research. “We’d been deaf to those sounds before the detectors equipped us with the opportunity to hear them, and each event gives invaluable new data points to expand our understanding of our cosmos.”
It's more evidence that "the universe is a violent place," according to the United Kingdom's Science and Technology Facilities Council.
But this first-ever black hole – neutron star collision isn't a slam dunk yet: "Unfortunately, the signal is rather weak," Brady said. "It's like listening to somebody whisper a word in a busy café; 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."
In total, since making history with the first-ever direct detection of gravitational waves in 2016, the network has spotted evidence for two neutron star mergers; 13 black hole mergers; and now this one possible black hole-neutron star merger.
The discoveries kicked off a new field of astronomy involving gravitational waves, CNN said.