Gravitational-wave researchers increasingly think that globular clusters, dazzling, celestial “snow globes” –among the oldest objects in the Universe– populated with hundreds of thousands of densely packed stars, harbor dark “hearts” loaded with dozens to even hundreds of black holes–by far the greatest concentration of these exotic objects found anywhere in the universe. Gravitational-wave observations of binary black hole and neutron star mergers by LIGO and Virgo in the past five years have opened a completely new new way of observing the Universe.
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From our tiny blue dot, the universe appears inconceivably vast. In the grand cosmic scheme of things, all the light in the observable universe provides about as much illumination as a 60-watt bulb seen from 2.5 miles away, says Marco Ajello, an astrophysicist at Clemson University, who led a team in 2018 that has measured all of the starlight ever produced throughout the history of the observable universe.
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“It’s mind-boggling to actually witness material orbiting a massive black hole at 30% of the speed of light,” marveled Oliver Pfuhl, a scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics.
“The fate of black holes in a quantum theory of gravity is, in my view, the most important problem in theoretical physics,” said Jorge Pullin, the Horace Hearne professor of theoretical physics at LSU.