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Third black hole crash expands LIGO frontier

An artist’s conception shows two merging black holes similar to those detected by LIGO. (LIGO / Caltech / MIT / Sonoma State Illustration / Aurore Simonnet)

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory has detected its third confirmed black hole merger, and this one’s a doozy: LIGO’s latest discovery is about 3 billion light-years away, which is more than twice as far away as the first two finds.

The gravitational wave signature of the newly reported smash-up, known as GW170104, also confirms that there’s a heavyweight class for stellar-mass black holes.

“It clearly establishes a new population of black holes that were not known before LIGO,” said Bangalore Sathyaprakash, a physicist at Penn State and Cardiff University.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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