Researchers are using gravitational waves to better understand black holes. LIGO’s detectors are sensitive to stellar mass black holes up to 100 times the mass of the sun—and quite efficient at finding them, too, compared to X-ray telescope efforts since the 1970s. If you count both black holes in each merger, “we’re now at the point where we’ve discovered as many [stellar mass black holes] with gravitational waves as we have with X-rays,” says Christopher Berry of Northwestern University.
Studying stellar-mass black holes could help them understand larger black holes, including the behemoth recently imaged by the Event Horizon Telescope, M87, which is 6.5 billion times the mass of the sun (see box at bottom of page). “One of the biggest questions in astrophysics right now is, where do supermassive black holes come from?” says Berry.
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