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Gravitational waves have brought us long-sought proof of a cataclysmic meeting between a black hole and a neutron star.

Are you in the mood to feel small? Like cosmically small? And not because of the usual dreamy, slightly cheesy stuff that space can offer—the idea that we exist on a tiny speck of rock clinging to our beautiful sun in the darkness. I’m talking about some truly wild action, so intense that it warps space-time, the invisible scaffolding that holds up everything we know, and reverberates for hundreds of millions of light-years.

Then astronomers have got something for you.

An international team of researchers announced today that it has detected evidence of one of the most extreme objects in the cosmos, a black hole, colliding with another of the most extreme objects in the cosmos, a neutron star, forming an even bigger black hole. And the team caught it happening not once, but twice.

Until now, these kinds of mergers, as astronomers call them, were purely hypothetical. Theoretical models predicted that they could, and should, happen. Astronomers had found evidence of other mash-ups between extreme astrophysical objects; in the past several years, they have detected mergers between two black holes and mergers between two neutron stars. But they couldn’t be certain that a meeting between one of each was possible, that nature could really bring them together, until one day, in a flash, the evidence arrived on Earth.

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