In space, you can’t hear the black hole’s scream, but you can seem to hear it singing.
In 2003, astrophysicists working with NASA’s orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory detected a wavy shape in the X-ray light of a massive galaxy cluster in the constellation Perseus. They are pressure waves – meaning sound waves – that are 30,000 light-years across and radiate outward through the thin, superfast gas that pervades galaxy clusters. They are caused by periodic explosions from a supermassive black hole at the center of the cluster, 250 million light-years away and containing thousands of galaxies.
With an oscillation period of 10 million years, the sound waves are equivalent to a flat sound B-57 octaves below the C mean, a tone the black hole seems to have kept for the past two billion years. Astronomers suspect that these waves act as a brake on star formation, keeping the gas in the cluster too hot to condense into new stars.
Chandra astronomers recently “clarified” these ripples by speeding up the signals 57 or 58 octaves above their original pitch, increasing their frequency four billion times to making them audible to the human ear. As a result, the rest of us can now hear the intergalactic sirens.
Through this new cosmic headset, the black hole Perseus emits eerie groans and rumblings that remind listeners of the shrill sound of alien radio signals that Jodie Foster heard through her ears. heard in the sci-fi movie “Contact”.
As part of an ongoing project to “clean up” the universe, NASA also emits the similarly generated sound of bright buttons in an energy jet fired from a massive black hole at the center of the galaxy. giant galaxy called M87. These sounds reach us throughout 53.5 million light-years as a strict succession of orchestral timbres.
Yet another denuclearization project has been carried out by a team led by Erin Kara, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as part of an effort to use echoes of light from the X-ray bursts to map the environment around black holes, as used by bats. sound to catch mosquitoes.
All of this is an outgrowth of “Black Hole Week,” an epic NASA social media event that runs May 2 through 6. As it happens during the week. This provides a prelude to important news on May 12, when researchers with the Event Horizon Telescope, in 2019 produced the first image of a black hole, which will reveal publish their latest results.
Black holes, according to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, are objects with such strong gravity that nothing, not even light, much smaller sound, can escape. Paradoxically, they may also be the brightest in the universe. Theorists speculate that before any kind of matter disappears forever into a black hole, it will be accelerated to near-light speeds by the hole’s gravitational field and heated up, swirling millions of degrees. . This will create X-rays, create interstellar shock waves, and force high-energy rays and particles through space like a lot of toothpaste from a tube.
In a common scenario, a black hole exists in a binary system with a star and steals matter from it, which accumulates into a bright, dense disk – a donut that can visible – produces on a regular basis X-rays.
Using data from a NASA instrument called the Neutron Star Interior Component Explorer – NICER – a team led by Jingyi Wang, an MIT graduate student, looked for the echoes or reflections of these events. this X-ray burst. The time delay between the original X-ray bursts and their echoes and distortions due to their proximity to the strange gravity of black holes has provided insight into the evolution of violent outbursts. this.
Meanwhile, Dr. Kara has been working with music and education professionals to convert X-ray reflections into audible sounds. In some simulations of this process, she says, lightning flashes all around the black hole, causing a dramatic change in their wavelength before being reflected.
“I just love that we can ‘hear’ general relativity in these simulations,” Dr Kara said in an email.
Enjoy your heart, Pink Floyd.