09/11/2020

Why A Medium-Sized Black Hole Is Surprising Physicists

17:08 minutes

two black dots resembling black holes coming together in the middle of a purple swirl
Still from a numerical relativity simulation showing the gravitational waves just after the merger, with the trajectories of the initial black holes and the horizon of the final black hole just visible in the center. Credit: LIGO/Virgo/D. Ferguson, K. Jani, D. Shoemaker, P. Laguna.

If you’re looking for a black hole, they normally come in two sizes. There’s the basic model, in which a large, dying star collapses in on itself, and the gravity of its core pulls in other matter. Then there are the supermassive black holes, millions of times the mass of our sun, that tend to be found at the center of a galaxy.

But recently researchers reported that they had evidence for two colliding black holes that created a surprising offspring. Their collision formed a middle-weight black hole, around 142 times the mass of our sun. 

Daniel Holz, a member of the LIGO team that spotted the collision, and a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago, joins Ira to talk about what the observation means for theories of how black holes form and grow.

Donate To Science Friday

Invest in quality science journalism by making a donation to Science Friday.

Donate

Segment Guests

Daniel Holz

Daniel Holz is a professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Physics, and the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, and a member of the LIGO Scientific Consortium.

Segment Transcript

The transcript for this segment is being processed. It will be posted within one week after the episode airs.

Meet the Producers and Host

About Charles Bergquist

As Science Friday’s director, Charles Bergquist channels the chaos of a live production studio into something sounding like a radio program. Favorite topics include planetary sciences, chemistry, materials, and shiny things with blinking lights.

About Ira Flatow

Ira Flatow is the host and executive producer of Science FridayHis green thumb has revived many an office plant at death’s door.

Explore More

In A Moment Of Black Holes And Pandemics

A year after the Event Horizon Telescope captured the first ever image of a black hole, author and astrophysicist Janna Levin looks back at the project’s impact.

Read More