LIGO may have just spotted a black hole devouring a neutron star merger at only 13 percent, but scientists are still hopeful. Either it could be a black hole and a neutron star. Both are the result of the death of a star.
If that core is below about three times the mass of the Sun (with the original star between 10 and 30 times the mass of the Sun), it becomes a neutron star.
If it’s more than three Solar masses, it becomes a black hole. (Stars that are too small to become neutron stars become white dwarfs. That’s where the Sun is headed.)
The mechanism is the same as black hole-black hole and neutron star-neutron star mergers. The two objects are locked in a death spiral, orbiting closer and closer until BOOM! the two objects merge.
But there would be some differences. Because the black hole is the far more massive object, it would subsume the neutron star’s mass into its own.
And, rather than a circular orbit, the neutron star’s path around the black hole would be more spherical making it a much better test bed for the effects of relativity.
“The fact that we haven’t found a counterpart yet would mean that it’s farther away, which is more consistent with a neutron star-black hole system,” González told.
But, since its upgrade, the LIGO-Virgo collaboration has been absolutely killing it – it’s detected a number of events, including a second neutron star collision.
So even if this event doesn’t turn out to be the hotly anticipated black hole-neutron star merger, it seems like detecting one is only a matter of time.