People who have listened to a sound sample that NASA uploaded on Twitter have described it as scary and ethereally magnificent.
The Perseus galaxy cluster, located approximately 240 million light-years from Earth, is home to a black hole that has been sonified, according to a tweet from the US space agency.
According to NASA, the sound waves discovered there over two decades ago were “extracted and made audible” this year.
People were astounded that anything, much less what sounds like a creepy, guttural groan, could exit a black hole after watching the 34-second film, which erupted on social media.
The notion that there is no sound in space, however, is false, according to the organization. A galaxy cluster, on the other hand, “has abundant amounts of gas that encircle the hundreds or even thousands of galaxies inside it, providing a channel for the sound waves to traverse,” NASA added. Whereas most of the space is a vacuum with no medium for sound waves to pass through.
The film, which NASA referred to as a “Sound of Black Hole Remix,” was initially made available in early May to coincide with Black Hole Week. However, a tweet from the NASA exoplanets team on Sunday really got people’s attention, since the video had been seen more than 13 million times.
After 53 hours of observation, scientists with NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory “found that pressure waves pushed out by the black hole generated ripples in the heated gas of the cluster that could be translated into a note,” which led to the discovery of the sound waves in 2003.
The frequency of that note, however, was too low for humans to hear since it was akin to a B-flat, which is around 57 octaves below the middle C note of a piano, according to NASA.
So, Chandra astronomers altered the audio and raised the frequency by 57 and 58 octaves. According to NASA, the frequencies are being heard 144 quadrillions and 288 quadrillion times higher than they were originally.
Sonification Project chief’s views
The sonification project’s chief investigator, Kimberly Arcand, remarked that she leaped up in delight when she first heard the sound in late 2021, which she compared to “a lovely Hans Zimmer soundtrack with the melancholy level set at extremely high.”
So, Chandra astronomers altered the audio and raised the frequency by 57 and 58 octaves. According to NASA, the frequencies are being heard 144 quadrillions and 288 quadrillion times higher than they were initially.
The sonification project’s chief investigator, Kimberly Arcand, remarked that she leaped up in delight when she first heard the sound of a black hole in late 2021, which she compared to “a lovely Hans Zimmer soundtrack with the melancholy level set at extremely high.”
According to Chandra’s visualization scientist and emerging technologies lead, “It was such a fantastic picture of what was in my imagination.” She said that it also served as a “tipping point” for the sonification initiative as a whole since it “truly aroused people’s imaginations.”
It also suggests potential future study areas. It is “extremely intriguing” to think that there are supermassive black holes scattered around the cosmos that are “belching forth wonderful tunes,” continued Arcand.
The sound in NASA’s remix, according to experts, isn’t precisely what you’d hear if you were miraculously standing next to a black hole. According to Michael Smith, an astronomy professor at the University of Kent in England, “this sound of black hole” couldn’t be heard by humans since their ears aren’t “sensitive enough to be able to pick them up.” But if we magnified it, we would be able to hear them since they are present and are of the proper frequency, Smith added. He compared it to a radio, saying that when the sound is turned up, the level is higher and you can hear it.
According to Arcand, the sound of black holes developed during the coronavirus epidemic. She had been working on building 3D printable models to make it easier for those with low vision or no vision to access the X-ray light data that Chandra’s orbiting telescope had been collecting into photos. The epidemic made it challenging to remotely maintain such a program.
She then made the decision, together with several other colleagues, to try something novel: sonification, which is the conversion of astronomical data into sound. Arcand was “motivated to think differently” about the benefits of converting complicated data sets into music since the team included blind professionals.