Watch: Sonification' of the black hole at the centre of the Perseus galaxy cluster
What does a black hole sound like? In science fiction films, they usually sound horribly ominous, but in reality, it’s oddly like synthesiser music.
Nasa has released a new ‘sonification’ of ripples from the black hole at the centre of the Perseus galaxy cluster.
Since 2003, it’s been associated with sound, 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 - the lowest in the universe.
The note emitted is one that humans cannot hear some 57 octaves below middle C.
Now a new sonification brings more notes to this black hole sound machine.
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.
In this new sonification of Perseus, the sound waves astronomers previously identified were extracted and made audible for the first time.
The sound waves were extracted in radial directions, that is, outwards from the centre.
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The signals were then re-synthesised into the range of human hearing by scaling them upward by 57 and 58 octaves above their true pitch. A
Another way to put this is that they are being heard 144 quadrillion and 288 quadrillion times higher than their original frequency.
In the visual image of these data, blue and purple both show X-ray data captured by Chandra.
The brightest part of the image corresponds to the loudest portion of the sonification, which is where astronomers find the 6.5-billion solar mass black hole that EHT imaged.
More sonifications of astronomical data, as well as additional information on the process, can be found at the “A Universe of Sound” website