NASA discovered what a black hole sounds like and publishes a space ‘remix’

NASA discovered what a black hole sounds like and publishes a space 'remix'
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How does a black hole sound? Both “creepy” and “ethereal beautiful,” according to people who listened to an audio clip posted on Twitter by NASA.

The US space agency tweeted what it called a remixed sonification from the black hole at the center of a cluster of galaxies known as Perseus, which is about 240 million light-years from Earth. Sound waves identified there nearly two decades ago were “extracted and audible” for the first time this year, according to NASA.

the 34 seconds shorten set social media ablaze, with many people stunned that anything, let alone what sounds like a bloodcurdling, guttural moan, could escape a black hole.

But the idea that there is no sound in space is actually a “popular misconception,” the agency said. While most of space is a vacuum, with no medium for sound waves to travel, a galaxy cluster “has large amounts of gas that envelop the hundreds or even thousands of galaxies within it, providing a medium for sound waves travel. he explained she.

The clip, which NASA described as a “Black Hole Remix,” was first released in early May to coincide with NASA’s Black Hole Week, but a Sunday tweet from NASA’s exoplanet team actually seemed like unpleasant, since more than 13 million saw the clip. times

Sound waves were discovered in 2003, when, after 53 hours of observationresearchers at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory “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.”

But humans couldn’t hear that note because its frequency was too low, the equivalent of a B-flat, about 57 octaves below middle C on a piano, according to NASA. So the Chandra astronomers remixed the sound and increased its frequency by 57 and 58 octaves. “Another way of saying this is that they are heard 144 quadrillion and 288 quadrillion times louder than their original frequency,” NASA said.

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Kimberly Arcand, the lead researcher on the sonification project, said that when she first heard the sound in late 2021, which she described as “a beautiful Hans Zimmer score with a very high level of moodiness,” she jumped with excitement.

“It was such a wonderful representation of what existed in my mind,” Chandra’s visualization scientist and emerging technology leader told The Washington Post. But it was also a “turning point” for the sonification program as a whole, as it “really sparked people’s imaginations,” he said.

It also points to future areas of research. “The idea that there are these supermassive black holes scattered throughout the universe that are… spewing out incredible songs is a very tempting thing,” Arcand added.

A deep voice from deep space

Experts have warned that the sound in the NASA remix isn’t exactly what you’d hear if you were standing next to a black hole. Human ears would not be “sensitive enough to be able to pick up those sound waves,” Michael Smith, a professor of astronomy at the University of Kent in England, told The Post. “But they’re there, they’re the right kind of frequency, and if we amplify them … then we might be able to hear them,” Smith said. He compared it to a radio: “you turn up the sound, the volume is louder, then you can hear it.”

Arcand said the idea took shape during the coronavirus pandemic. She had been working to convert X-ray light captured by Chandra’s orbiting telescope into images, including creating 3D models that could be printed to help people with little or no vision access that data. When the pandemic hit, that program became difficult to maintain remotely.

So, with other colleagues, he decided to try something new: sonification, or the process of translating astronomical data into sound. The team included blind experts and inspired Arcand to “think differently” about the value of translating complex data sets into sound.

Looking at data from 2003 on the Perseus galaxy cluster, she and her colleagues worked to determine the properties of the pressure waves and deduce the sound they would make, and then increased their frequency.

The decision to release the “re-sonification” of the nearly two-decade-old data is part of the agency’s efforts to Use social networks to communicate complex things. scientific discoveries in plain language to his millions of followers.

Through a partnership with Twitter, NASA found that “while their fans were enjoying stunning space photos and behind-the-scenes looks at missions, there was a group of people who also wanted to know what space sounded like.” company wrote in a press release.

Some experts said the clip was confusing because it gave the impression that the sound “was somehow what you would hear if you were there,” said Chris Lintott, a professor of astrophysics at Oxford University. wrote Tuesday on Twitter, as if he had a recording device that directly translates the sound of the galaxy cluster to Earth.

“Data sonification is fun and can be useful, especially for those who can’t see the images. But sometimes it’s used to make things appear ‘deeper’ than they are, like here,” Lintott added.

But Smith, a professor at the University of Kent, said that “it makes perfect sense to say that there are sound waves [in the galaxy cluster]and if we were there, we could hear them if we had sensitive enough ears.”

Still, he acknowledged, “these galaxy clusters are so far away that they have to make a lot of assumptions to make it what we might hear if we were there.”

Arcand said he understood criticism from some corners that sonification risks oversimplifying a complex process, particularly since the combination of pressure, heat and gas that enables sound waves within the Perseus galaxy cluster is specific to that galaxy. environment. But the value of sonification, he said, is that it made her “question things in different ways.”

“It’s an excellent portrayal of science, in my opinion, and quite an eerie sound!” Carole Mundell, head of astrophysics at the University of Bath in England, told The Post via email.

Supermassive black hole seen in the center of our galaxy

The project, and NASA’s tweets about it, seem to have fulfilled the space agency’s mission to share its science and research with the general public in a conversational way, though not everyone was a fan of the remixed sounds of the black hole.

Online, people seemed excited and terrified for him, doing colorful comparisons to the series The Lord of the Rings and Silent Hill.

Others had fun with the audio clip, overlaying an image of a intergalactic puppy over it or by remixing it with a recreated sound is believed to be the closest to the voice of a mummy.

“I can confirm that the noise from the black hole that NASA launched is the sound from hell,” said a darkly humorous Twitter user. wrote. Other said:: “New genre recently launched: Cosmic Horror”.

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