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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.

Updated 14 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."