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The LIGO detector in Louisiana. Photo: Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab

Astronomers think they've detected the ripples in space and time sent out by a black hole and neutron star colliding.

The big picture: Scientists have detected gravitational waves sent out by 2 black holes merging and 2 neutron stars merging, but if confirmed, this will be the first detection of a black hole and neutron star colliding.

Why it matters: Astronomers hope that the Aug. 14 detection will help them learn more about both black holes and neutron stars, the super dense remnants of dead stars.

Details: Researchers aren't yet sure of the exact size of the black hole or neutron star that sent out the gravitational waves, but further analysis could help determine the masses of the two objects.

  • "[W]e're very confident that we've just detected a black hole gobbling up a neutron star," physicist Susan Scott, of Australian National University, said in a statement.
  • “However, there is the slight but intriguing possibility that the swallowed object was a very light black hole — much lighter than any other black hole we know about in the universe. That would be a truly awesome consolation prize.”

How it works: The two LIGO detectors in Washington state and Louisiana and the Virgo detector in Italy are responsible for listening for gravitational waves emitted by cosmic crashes as they move through our part of space.

  • The sensitive L-shaped observatories use lasers to pick up the moment that the ripples pass through Earth, slightly warping everything they pass through as they go.

Go deeper

New wave of strikes will test worker power

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Thousands of John Deere workers hit the picket line this week after the union smacked down a new worker contract from the farm and equipment maker.

Why it matters: There’s a wave of worker angst spreading across the country. They wield new power that’s come with a historic worker shortage.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Technology

The smart city comes of age

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Better sensors, more intelligent AI, and the coming wave of 5G wireless could finally fulfill the promise of the smart city.

Why it matters: How we organize, run and power our cities will be increasingly important in the years ahead, as urbanization expands and the damaging effects of climate change compound.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
11 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Key clean power provision likely won't survive in Dems' spending bill

A construction worker walks along a dirt road at the Avangrid Renewables La Joya wind farm in Encino, New Mexico, on Aug. 5, 2020. Photo: Cate Dingley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A pillar of Democrats' plans to speed deployment of zero-carbon electricity is likely to be cut from major spending and tax legislation they are struggling to move on a party-line vote, per multiple reports and a Capitol Hill aide.

Driving the news: The New York Times, citing anonymous congressional aides and lobbyists, reports that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has told the White House he "strongly opposes" the Clean Electricity Performance Program.