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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Scientists announced Wednesday the first surefire evidence of a never-before-seen type of black hole in deep space.

Why it matters: Intermediate-mass black holes could be key to understanding how black holes and galaxies form.

In May 2019, scientists using the LIGO and Virgo observatories detected a signal from two black holes colliding. That collision formed a black hole thought to be about 142 times the mass of the Sun, making it the first confirmed intermediate-mass black hole.

  • It is the most massive merger detected so far: The two black holes that created this intermediate-mass black hole were about 85 and 66 solar masses. The signal from their cosmic crash took about 7 billion years to travel to Earth.
  • Scientists think it's possible the 85-solar-mass black hole may have actually formed after previous mergers, adding another surprise to the detection.
  • "After so many gravitational-wave observations since the first detection in 2015, it’s exciting that the universe is still throwing new things at us, and this 85-solar-mass black hole is quite the curveball," Chase Kimball, one of the authors of two studies detailing the discovery said in a statement.

The backdrop: LIGO and Virgo detect gravitational waves — the minute ripples that warp space and time after cataclysmic crashes between black holes and neutron stars.

  • These types of observations add another way for astronomers to understand the universe beyond telescopes that capture light from distant stars and galaxies.

The big picture: Scientists have plenty of examples of black holes with similar masses to the Sun — which form when large stars collapse — and supermassive black holes millions of times the mass of our star at the center of galaxies.

  • But this is the first time researchers have found clear evidence of a black hole in between those extremes.
  • "One of the great mysteries in astrophysics is how do supermassive black holes form?" Christopher Berry, another author of the studies said in the statement.
  • "Long have we searched for an intermediate-mass black hole to bridge the gap between stellar-mass and supermassive black holes. Now, we have proof that intermediate-mass black holes do exist."

Go deeper: The hunt for a new kind of black hole

Go deeper

Oct 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

"Souls to the polls" during COVID-19

Students get off a Black Votes Matter bus in Fayetteville, N.C., in March. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The coronavirus has complicated the get-out-the-vote effort for Black churches in 2020.

Why it matters: Those churches are a key part of broader efforts in the Black community to push back against voter suppression tactics, the AP reports.

In photos: Protesters rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, outside the Minnesota Governor's residence during a protest in support of George Floyd in St.Paul, Minnesota, on March 6. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of protesters were rallying outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in St Paul Saturday, urging justice for George Floyd ahead of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start this Monday, with jury selection procedures.