NASA Audio Of a Black Hole Has Gone Viral

NASA Audio Of a Black Hole

NASA Audio Of a Black Hole Has Gone Viral

NASA Audio Of a Black Hole Has Gone Viral: Here’s how they created it, and what else we can ‘hear’ in space. This week NASA shared some audio that allows us to “hear a black hole”.

The terrifyingly low drone soon went viral on social media, as people felt the weight of the sound and pondered their own insignificance amid the vastness of space.

Without getting too existential, let’s dive into how NASA captured these sounds, the recordings of which were first released earlier this year, and what else we can “hear” in space.

What does a black hole sound like?

The Perseus galaxy cluster was made famous almost 20 years ago after sound waves were detected around its supermassive black hole.

NASA shared new audio from the black hole back in May but posted it on social media again this week.

Here’s how it sounds:

Wait, isn’t spaced a vacuum? How can you ‘hear’ it?

The idea that there is no sound in space is a popular misconception.

Most of the space is a vacuum that sound waves can’t move through, but galaxy clusters can release a lot of gas, which envelops the many galaxies inside of them, creating a medium for sound waves to travel through.

In 2003, astronomers found that pressure waves sent out by the black hole at the centre of the Perseus galaxy cluster caused ripples in the cluster’s hot gas, which could be translated into a note.

The thing is, the note was too low to be heard by humans, because it is 57 octaves (or about seven piano lengths) below middle C, according to NASA.

To create audio that is audible to humans, scientists do something known as sonification, which is the translation of this astronomical data into sound.

How the sound of a black hole was created:

NASA says the sonification of the Perseus galaxy cluster is unlike any other done before because it uses the actual sound waves discovered by its Chandra X-ray Observatory space telescope.

Here’s the gist of how the sonification was put together, according to NASA:

  • The sound waves were extracted outwards, from the centre of the cluster
  • The signals were resynthesized into the range of human hearing by scaling them up by 57 and 58 octaves above their actual pitch
  • The radar-like scan around the image allows us to hear waves emitted in different directions

The scaling up of the sound signals means that what we are hearing is actually 144 quadrillion and 288 quadrillion times higher than the signals’ original frequencies.

For scale, a quadrillion (a million billion) is 1,000,000,000,000,000 — that’s 15 zeros.

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