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First Black Hole Collision Originated 12 Billion Years Ago; Study Predicts Hundreds of Future Black Hole Mergers?

Jun 23, 2016 05:54 AM EDT

Following the announcement of the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Waves Observatory (LIGO) about the detection of gravitational waves from a collision of two black holes, researchers have calculated how long the age of the first collision is. The study says that the first black hole collision was 12 billion years in the making, and more will occur.

According to the study published in the journal Nature, the merger of the supermassive black holes originated from two ancient suns that formed billions of years ago -- two billion years since the Big Bang, to be exact. To determine the age of these suns, the researchers created a complex simulation of how the universe may have evolved after the Big Bang.

Chris Belczynski, an astrophysicist at Warsaw University and lead author of the study, told The Verge, "We have a model of the entire Universe in our computer. We populate the computer with stars from the beginning, from the Big Bang, and you let them go ahead, evolve, produce black holes, etc."

Called the Synthetic Universe, the computer model enabled the team of researchers to trace the start of the universe. They calculated the types of stars where the black holes originated via a synthetic LIGO detector.

However, looking back in time is not the only purpose of the model. Scientists say that it could also create future predictions. Belczynski explains that the past two detections are not the last we'll see of black hole collisions. In fact, the model shows that LIGO will pick up to 60 detections in the future, and that number may even go as high as 1,000. These future detections are also big ones with combined masses of 20 or 80 times greater than the Sun.

Belczynski further explains that black holes form when a star collapses, and the size of the star equates to how big the black hole is. The creation of the Synthetic Universe model confirms that we will expect more and more black hole collisions in the future, shedding light on the evolution of stars.

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