Space is a dark and cold place, but it is certainly not empty. Nor is it silent, unlike what one might think. The black hole at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster, for example, has been somehow associated with sound since 2003: researchers then discovered that the black hole’s activity could be translated into a melodycapable of revealing important details about the life of the celestial body.
We are in the midst of Week of Black Holesand there was perhaps no better occasion to publish the new translation into music of the black hole of the Perseus cluster.
The sound of black holes
Astronomers first thought of sound the black hole at the center of the cluster of Perseus, among the special observers of Chandra orbital telescopewhen they realized that the pressure waves emanating from the black hole produce ripples in the galaxy’s glowing gas cloud.
Those ripples could be translated into music, but the note emitted by the black hole was too far from the spectrum of human-audible sounds to be heard. The first “sonification” resulted in a note that was 57 octaves lower middle C of a normal keyboard.
Finally, however, we have a new translation into music of the sound of Perseus, and it is different from all the others: “In this new sonification of Perseus, the sound waves then identified by the astronomers were extracted and made audible for the first time” .
There is a whole database of music from celestial objectsbut the sonorizations made by NASA scientists are generally the translation into sound of data ranging from the wavelength of the light emitted to the data detected in the infrared.
The sound of Perseus, on the other hand, is the first translation into music of real sound waves recorded in space by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, which today we can hear for the first time.
The music of the galaxies
To make the “voice” of Perseus’ black hole audible, it was necessary to increase the frequency of the sound of a quadrillion times. The result of this one-of-a-kind operation is a disturbing electric chorus, very different from the pleasant melodies that have translated into planets soundgalaxies and nebulae of the Milky Way.
One of the most famous black holes ever, Messier 87 or M87sounds like a sweet ambient melody: the new sound system, published on the occasion of the Week of Black Holes, is the first that does not use the data of the Event Horizon Telescope but brings together those of all the other telescopes that have observed M87 during the same years.
M87’s new “music” is the result of x-rays detected by Chandra, optical data from Hubble and radio waves recorded on Earth by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile.
“The mistaken belief that there is no sound in space derives from the fact that much of space is essentially empty, so it does not have medium capable of propagating sound waves“reads the statement from NASA entirely dedicated to the sound of black holes.
In a cluster of galaxies, however, the large quantities of gases surrounding the celestial bodies allow the sound waves to travel through space, and to be recorded in some way. In the huge database of sounds available on the Chandra Observatory website, they are found ensemble performances and “solos” of the most important NASA telescopes: melodies spanning up to 400 light years played by the orchestra of Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra.
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The Black Hole “plays” in space: NASA’s new discovery
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