The black hole in the heart of the Perseus galaxy cluster produces sound.
This occurs as a result of black hole-emitted pressure waves generating ripples in the cluster’s heated gas. However, people are unable to perceive sounds down to 57 octaves below middle C. Thanks to NASA for bringing more notes to this black hole sound machine.
NASA has published a recording of sound waves emanating from the Perseus galaxy cluster’s central black hole. This novel sonification technique involves the conversion of astronomical data to sound. For the first time, astronomers retrieved the data and rendered it audible.
Unlike any previous sonification, this one revisits the real sound waves detected in NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory data.
Astronomers collected data in radial directions, i.e., outwards from the center, to generate this sonification of Perseus. They then scaled the signals upward by 57 and 58 octaves above their real pitch to bring them inside the range of human hearing.
Astronomers noted, “Another way to put this is that they are being heard 144 quadrillions and 288 quadrillion times higher than their original frequency.”
“The radar-like scan around the image allows you to hear waves emitted in different directions. In the visual image of these data, blue and purple both show X-ray data captured by Chandra.”
Additionally, astronomers have released a sonification of another well-known black hole known as Messier 87, or M87. The sonification uses data from telescopes that viewed M87 on substantially larger scales around the same time period.
NASA mentioned in their blog, “The image in visual form contains three panels that are, from top to bottom, X-rays from Chandra, optical light from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, and radio waves from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile. The brightest region on the left of the image is where the black hole is found, and the structure to the upper right is a jet produced by the black hole. The jet is produced by material falling onto the black hole.”
“The sonification scans across the three-tiered image from left to right, with each wavelength mapped to a different range of audible tones. Radio waves are mapped to the lowest tones, optical data to medium tones, and X-rays detected by Chandra to the highest tones. The brightest part of the image corresponds to the loudest portion of the sonification, where astronomers find the 6.5-billion solar mass black hole that EHT imaged.”
But, But, But there is no sound in Space?
“There is no sound in space” is actually something of a misconception: because most of space is basically a vacuum, there’s no medium for sound waves to travel through. However, in the dense gas of a galaxy cluster, it’s possible for sound to carry—in this case, as the result of pressure waves sent out by the black hole at Perseus’s center.This sonification takes these waves and moves them up 57 to 58 octaves above their true pitch to make them audible to human ears.