LIVINGSTON, La. (AP) — More than a billion years ago and hundreds of millions of light-years away, a ravenous mass of gravitational power known to scientists as a black hole swallowed a smaller, dead star whole, like an alligator eating its fill of nutria. Then it happened again.
The ripples created by the two collisions finally reached Earth in January 2020, marking a revelation in the burgeoning field of gravitational wave astrophysics. Scientists now regularly study the gravitational waves emitted by black holes meeting other black holes, but they had long-anticipated examining the more subtle ripples they hoped would emanate from a black hole consuming a smaller neutron star.