Probing the Origin of Black Hole Collisions with Gravitational Waves

In the short time since their first discovery in 2015, gravitational-wave observations yielded many surprises. Among others, the LIGO and Virgo observatories detected more and heavier black holes than previously anticipated; multi-messenger emission from neutron star merger GW170817 showed signs of a structured high-energy outflow; and a particularly massive black hole was discovered that is unlikely to have formed through stellar core collapse. The number of known detections will double very soon, and in the next five years, LIGO-Virgo's expected detection rate is set to increase twentyfold, to roughly one event every hour, promising many more surprises. I will outline the present state of gravitational wave astrophysics and future possibilities through the lense of a fundamental but yet unanswered question of the field: the astrophysical origin of binary black hole collisions.

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