NASA discovers what a black hole looks like and publishes a ‘remix’ of space


What does a black hole sound like? Both are “creepy” and “absolutely beautiful,” according to people who listened to an audio clip posted by NASA on Twitter.

The US space agency tweeted what it described as Remixed sonication From the black hole at the center of a group of galaxies known as the Perseus, which lies about 240 million light-years from Earth. According to NASA, the sound waves that were identified there nearly two decades ago were “extracted and made audible” for the first time this year.

34 seconds section It set fire to social media, as many people were amazed that anything, let alone what seemed like a strange ringing moan, could escape a black hole.

The idea that there is no sound in space is actually a “common misconception,” the agency said. While most of space is a vacuum, with no medium through which sound waves travel, a galaxy cluster “contains copious amounts of gas that encase hundreds or even thousands of galaxies within it, providing a medium for sound waves to travel,” he explained.

The clip, described by NASA as a “Black Hole Remix,” was first released in early May to coincide with NASA’s Black Hole Week — but Sunday’s tweet by NASA’s Exoplanet Team sounds really cool, with more than 13 million viewed. . times.

Sound waves were discovered in 2003, then 53 hours of observationResearchers at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have discovered that pressure waves sent out by a black hole cause ripples in the cluster’s hot gas that can be translated into observation.

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

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Kimberly Arcand, principal investigator for the sonication project, said that when she first heard the sound in late 2021 — which she described as “a beautiful Hans Zimmer score with a really high mood level” — she jumped in excitement.

“It was a great representation of what I had in mind,” visualization scientist and emerging technology leader at Chandra told The Washington Post. But it was also a “turning point” for the sonication program as a whole in that it “really sparked people’s imagination,” she said.

It also indicates areas of future research. “The idea that there are these supermassive black holes scattered throughout the universe… that are making incredible songs is very puzzling,” Arcand added.

Deep voice from deep space

Experts have warned that the sound in a NASA remix isn’t exactly what you’d hear if you were somehow standing next to a black hole. Human ears “won’t 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 are there, they are the right kind of frequency, and if we amplify it … we will be able to hear it,” Smith said. He likened it to a radio – “You raise the volume, the volume is higher, then you can hear it.”

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Arcand said the idea took shape during the coronavirus pandemic. She was working to convert X-ray light captured by the Chandra orbiting telescope into images, including creating 3D models that could be printed to help people with or without vision access that data. When the pandemic hit, it became difficult to maintain this program remotely.

So she and her other colleagues decided to try something new: sonication, 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 2003 data on the Perseus galaxy cluster, she and her colleagues worked to characterize the pressure waves and infer the sound they would produce, then raised their frequency.

The decision to release “re-sonication” of nearly two-decade-old data is part of the agency’s efforts to Using social media for complex communication Scientific discoveries in plain English for millions of followers.

Through a partnership with Twitter, NASA discovered that “while its fans were enjoying amazing images of space and looking behind the scenes at missions, there was a group of people wanting to know what space was like, too.” Company Books In a press release.

Some experts said the clip was baffling because it gave the impression that the sound “was somehow you would have heard if you had been there,” said Chris Lentot, professor of astrophysics at the University of Oxford, Wrote Tuesday on Twitter – It’s as if you had a recording device translating audio directly from the galactic cluster back to Earth.

“Transforming data into audio is fun and can be useful – especially for those who may not be able to see images. But it is sometimes used to make things look more ‘deeper’ than they are, like here,” Lintott added.

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But Smith, a professor at the University of Kent, said: “It is quite logical 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.”

However, he admitted, “These galactic groups are very far away, and they have to make a lot of assumptions to convert them into what we might hear if we were there.”

Arcand said she understands criticism from some angles that sonication risks oversimplifying a complex process — particularly because the mixture of pressure, heat, and gas that enables sound waves within the Perseus galaxy cluster is specific to that environment. But the value of the sonication, she said, was that it made her “question things in different ways.”

“It’s a great representation of science, in my opinion, and a rather agonizing sound!” Carol Mondel, chair of astrophysics at the University of Bath in England, told The Post via email.

Supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy

The project and NASA tweets about it seemed to have accomplished the space agency’s mission of sharing its science and research with the wider public in a conversational way — although not everyone was impressed with the remixed sounds of the black hole.

Online, people looked both elated and panicked Color Comparisons To the Lord of the Rings and Silent Hill series.

Others enjoyed the audio clip, overlaying a file image intergalactic puppy on it or remix it with a stretch Recreate the sound It is believed to be the closest to mummy’s voice.

“I can confirm that the noise of a black hole unleashed by NASA is the sound of hell,” one black-humored Twitter user said. Wrote. else He said: “A new genre has just been dropped: cosmic horror.”

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