Nature

NASA releases black hole sonifications


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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has released two new sonifications of well-known black holes.

The first came from a black hole at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster, which was made famous by sound waves detected around it by Chandra in astronomers in 2003.

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In a statement, the observatory wrote that scientists had found that pressure waves from the black hole caused ripples in the cluster’s hot gas that could translate to a note about 57 octaves below middle C.

NASA notes that the sonification is unique because it revisits the actual sound waves discovered in the Chandra data.

The sound waves were extracted outward from the center and the signals were then resynthesized into the range of human hearing by scaling them up 57 and 58 octaves above their pitch real.

“The popular misconception that there is no sound in space stems from the fact that most of space is essentially a vacuum, providing no means for sound waves to propagate,” said writes Chandra. “A galaxy cluster, on the other hand, contains large amounts of gas that shrouds the hundreds or even thousands of galaxies within it, providing a means for sound waves to travel.”

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In the visual image of this data, the blue and purple both show x-ray data captured by Chandra and the radar-like scanning allows people to hear the waves emitted in different directions.

For the black hole at the center of Galaxy M87, or Messier 87, the sonification does not present data from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project – which made it famous in 2019 – but examines data from other telescopes that have observed M87 on much larger scales around the same time.

Listeners can hear representations of three different wavelengths of light, including X-rays from Chandra, optical light from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, and radio waves from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile.

In the corresponding image, the brightest region on the left is where the black hole is located, and the structure on the right is a jet produced by the black hole.

The sonication scans the image from left to right, each wavelength corresponding to a different range of audible tones.

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Radio waves are mapped to lower tones, optical data to mid tones, and X-rays to higher tones.

The brightest part of the image corresponds to the strongest part of the sonification.


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