Well, here’s the story, anyhow:
Astronomers are puzzling over observations that show a black hole smashing into a mystery object of unusual size.
New research published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters describes a collision between a black hole and a yet-to-be identified object. At the time of this celestial tryst, the black hole was 23 times more massive than our Sun, but the unknown object was just 2.6 times the Sun’s mass, which is distinctly weird.
The scientists behind the new paper, co-authored by astrophysicist Vicky Kalogera from Northwestern University, say the smaller object could be a black hole or a neutron star, the latter of which is the super-dense remnant of an exploded star. A black hole of 2.6 solar masses would be the smallest on record (the lightest known black hole is 5 solar masses), while a neutron star of the same mass would be the biggest on record (the heaviest neutron stars are between 2.3 and 2.4 solar masses). So either way, it’s not something astronomers have ever seen before—and in fact, it could represent an entirely new class of dense, compact objects.
George Dvorsky, “A Black Hole Collided With Something That Shouldn’t Exist” at Gizmodo
Paper. (open access)