Nasa has released amazing audio from a pair of black holes that was captured by considered one of its space telescopes.
So what does a black hole sound like? Hell — or perhaps heaven. Based on latest work by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center, it relies on the black hole, and the way you listen.
Vacuous space, for probably the most part, lacks a continuous medium for the transmission of sound waves.
But sound is only one form of wave, and Nasa and the Chandra X-ray Center have built up a catalog of celestial “sonifications,” taking the emissions of space objects observed in visual light, X-ray, and other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, and converting the patterns to audible frequencies we will hear.
A few of the sonifications rendered to date include the “sounds” of our galaxy’s core, supernovae, and nebulae comparable to the “pillars of creation.”
But in honor of Black Hole Week, Nasa and the middle have shared two latest sonifications of black holes.
The primary is the black hole at the middle of the 53-million-light-year-distant galaxy Messier 87, which in 2019 became the primary black hole ever imaged using the Event Horizon Telescope. The sonification of the Messier 87 black hole incorporates X-ray, visual light and radio wave observations, converting them to audio waves which can be surprisingly harmonious and ethereal.
However the second black hole is a unique story.
The black hole at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster is different from most other targets for sonification, since it sits in a cloud of hot gas permeating the cluster. It actually generates ripples in that gas more properly classified as “sound” than the X-rays and other light from Messier 84.
The trick for Nasa and the Chandra X-ray center was learning to shift the pitch of the Perseus black hole’s sounds into the range of human hearing. The black hole’s sounds naturally vibrate 57 octaves below middle C on the piano, and so that they needed to be scaled up by 57 to 58 octaves — an astonishing 288 quadrillion times higher than their original pitch.
The outcomes are wildly different from the Messier 84 sonification. Where Messier 84 was sonorous and celestial, the Perseus signification is at times discordant, dark, and dirgeful, a sound perhaps more expected from a superbly dark maw of an all-consuming abyss than the dulcet tones of Messier 84.
The significations were created as a part of Nasa’s Universe of Learning program, which goals to encourage students and self-directed learning about space, astronomy, and physics.