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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Physicists today reported observing waves in space and time from the collision of two black holes 1.8 billion light years away. It's the fourth time in two years these ripples formed from black hole mergers have been spotted, but this time they were able to more precisely locate where the collision took place in our universe.

Why it matters: It demonstrates that three detectors — two are nearly aligned and one is not — can be used to track these events in three dimensions. Ultimately, physicists want to combine observations from these detectors with those from optical telescopes to both "see" and "hear" events like neutron stars colliding, which could explain the origins of heavy elements, and test Einstein's general theory of relativity.

What they saw: On August 14, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Observatory (LIGO) detectors in Washington and Louisiana along with the Virgo detector in Italy observed waves from two black holes (one 31 times the mass of the Sun and the other 25 times the mass) combining to form one 53 times larger in mass than the Sun.

They also analyzed how the gravitational waves distorted space and time. What they saw was consistent with Einstein's prediction that they would "stretch and squeeze spacetime in the plane perpendicular to their direction of travel."

Sound smart: The sum of the two colliding black holes was three solar masses more than the black hole that formed, meaning the mass of three Suns was converted into the energy of the gravitational waves.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Scoop: Jake Sullivan discussed Saudi-Israel normalization with MBS

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg and Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan raised normalization with Israel during his recent meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, three U.S. and Arab sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Saudi Arabia would be the biggest regional player to sign onto the "Abraham Accords" peace agreement with Israel, and such a major breakthrough would likely convince other Arab and Muslim countries to follow suit.

Tech's leaky world

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Tech companies are learning what everyone in Washington already knows: Leaks of confidential info are inevitable, and "plumbing" operations to close them rarely work.

Why it matters: Most tech firms talk up the power of transparency but prefer to keep details of their operations secret from competitors and the public. Researchers, regulators and the media are increasingly relying on information provided by dissident employees and whistleblowers to see inside companies' workings.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

First look: Harris wants more union membership in fed workforce

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at a virtual town hall with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on Oct. 14. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will today announce new guidelines to encourage federal workers to join unions, according to a White House official.

Why it matters: The Biden administration wants to bolster the collective bargaining power of workers across the country – and they are starting at home, with changes in the federal workforce.