For the first time in history, scientists have physical proof that pairs of black holes will sometimes circle around each other, collide and mush together to form a single, bigger black hole.
This news of binary-pair detection is extremely significant for astrophysicists, but it was somewhat eclipsed by the simple fact that the Large Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) had detected gravitational waves at all. It was the first instance of a direct detection of these ripples through space-time, and it marks the dawn of a new subfield of astronomy.
Vicky Kalogera, a black hole scientist at Northwestern University in Illinois and a member of the LIGO team, said it was appropriate that gravitational waves took center stage last week. But she took some time to talk to Space.com about why the pair of black holes that LIGO detected is particularly strange and exciting, too. [Stirred, Not Shaken – How Colliding Black Holes Make Waves]