Converting black hole pressure waves into sound indirectly channels horror films of the 50s with their use of eerie sounds intended to scare the living daylights out of you back in the day. Cool without question. :)
Since 2003, the black hole at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster has been associated with sound. This is because astronomers discovered that pressure waves sent out by the black hole caused ripples in the cluster’s hot gas that could be translated into a note – one that humans cannot hear some 57 octaves below middle C. Now a new sonification brings more notes to this black hole sound machine. This new sonification – that is, the translation of astronomical data into sound – is being released for NASA’s Black Hole Week this year.
In some ways, this sonification is unlike any other done before (1, 2, 3, 4) because it revisits the actual sound waves discovered in data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The popular misconception that there is no sound in space originates with the fact that most of space is essentially a vacuum, providing no medium for sound waves to propagate through. A galaxy cluster, on the other hand, has copious amounts of gas that envelop the hundreds or even thousands of galaxies within it, providing a medium for the sound waves to travel.
M87's sound is even cooler. :)
Studied by scientists for decades, the black hole in Messier 87, or M87, gained celebrity status in science after the first release from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project in 2019. This new sonification does not feature the EHT data, but rather looks at data from other telescopes that observed M87 on much wider scales at roughly the same time.
Data sonification writ large, rules. :)
- A team of researchers have found a way to simulate the haunting echo sounds x-ray light makes when it bounces around a black hole.
- The tool the team used to generate these sounds is—no joke—called the “Reverberation Machine.”
- Listening to these echoes and other cosmic sounds can help scientists learn more about how black holes evolve.