NASA discovers what a black hole looks like, releases space ‘remix’

NASA discovers what a black hole looks like, releases space 'remix'
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What sound does a black hole make? According to people listening to an audio clip posted by NASA on Twitter, it’s both “creepy” and “spiritual beautiful.”

The US space agency posted the tweet it gave its name. remixed sonification Image of the black hole at the center of a galaxy cluster known as Perseus, located approximately 240 million light-years from Earth. According to NASA, sound waves identified there nearly two decades ago were “extracted and made audible” for the first time this year.

34 seconds clip It set social media on fire, with many people babbling away that anything could escape a black hole, let alone an eerie, throaty groan.

But the agency said that the idea that there is no sound in space is actually a “popular misconception.” While most of space is a void with no medium for sound waves to travel through, a galaxy cluster “has an abundance of gas that surrounds hundreds or even thousands of galaxies within it, providing a medium for sound waves to travel through.” explained.

The clip, which NASA describes as a “Black Hole Remix,” was first released in early May to coincide with NASA’s Black Hole Week – but a tweet posted on Sunday by the NASA exoplanets team has garnered more than 13 million views. times.

Sound waves were discovered in 2003. 53 hours of observationResearchers at NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory “found that the pressure waves sent by the black hole cause fluctuations in the hot gas of the cluster that can be translated into a note.”

But people couldn’t hear this note because its frequency was so low—equivalent to a B-flat, about 57 octaves below the middle C note of a piano, according to NASA. So the astronomers at Chandra remixed the sound and increased its frequency by 57 and 58 octaves. “Another way of saying it is that they are heard 144 quadrillion and 288 quadrillion times higher than their original frequency,” NASA said. Said.

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Kimberly Arcand, principal investigator of the sonification project, said she jumped to her feet excitedly when she first heard the sound in late 2021 – which she described as “a beautiful Hans Zimmer score with the restlessness level set really high”.

“It was a wonderful representation of what I had in mind,” the visualization scientist and emerging technology leader at Chandra told The Washington Post. But it was also a “tipping point” for the sonification program as a whole, because it “really fired up people’s imaginations,” he said.

It also points to future research areas. “The idea of ​​these supermassive black holes scattering the universe and spitting out incredible songs is very exciting,” Arcand added.

A Deep Voice from Deep Space

Experts have warned that the sound in NASA’s remix isn’t exactly what you’d hear if you were somehow standing next to a black hole. The human ear “can’t be sensitive enough to pick up these sound waves,” Michael Smith, a professor of astronomy at the University of Kent in England, told The Post. “But they’re there, they’re at the right frequency, and if we turned it up… then we could hear it,” Smith said. He likened it to a radio – “you turn up the volume, the volume is louder, then you can hear it.”

Arcand said the idea took shape during the coronavirus pandemic. He was working on converting X-ray light captured by Chandra’s orbiting telescope into images; This includes creating 3D models that can be printed to help people with low or no vision access this data. When the pandemic hit, this program became difficult to maintain remotely.

Therefore, he decided to try something new with his fellow colleagues: sonification, or the process of translating astronomical data into sound. The team included experts who blinded and inspired Arcand to “think differently” about the value of translating complex datasets into audio.

Looking at 2003 data on the hero galaxy cluster, he and his colleagues worked to characterize the pressure waves and extract the sound they would produce, and then increase their frequency.

The decision to “refinish” nearly two decades of data is part of the agency’s efforts. use social media to communicate complex He presents scientific discoveries to his millions of followers in plain English.

Through a partnership with Twitter, NASA discovered that “while fans enjoy stunning photos of space and behind-the-scenes footage of missions, there is also a group of people who want to know what space looks like.” the company wrote in a newsletter.

Chris Lintott, professor of astrophysics at the University of Oxford, said some experts said the clip was confusing because it gave the impression that the audio was “somehow you’d hear if you were there.” Wrote Twitter Tuesday — as if you had a recorder that translated the sound from the galaxy cluster directly to Earth.

“The sonification of data can be fun and useful – especially for those who can’t see the images. But sometimes, as here, it’s used to make things look ‘deeper’ than they really are,” Lintott added.

But it’s “completely reasonable to say they’re sound waves,” said University of Kent professor Smith. [in the galaxy cluster]And if we were there, if we had sensitive enough ears, we could hear them.”

Still, “these galaxy clusters are so far away that they have to make a lot of assumptions to translate them into things we could hear if we were there,” he said.

Arcand said he understands the criticism from some corners that sonification risks oversimplifying a complex process—especially because the mix of pressure, heat, and gas that enables sound waves in the Perseus galaxy cluster is unique to that environment. But the value of sonification is that it allows him to “question things in different ways,” he said.

“I think it’s an excellent representation of science and a pretty haunting sound!” Carole Mundell, head of astrophysics at the University of Bath in the UK, told The Post via email.

Supermassive black hole seen at the center of our galaxy

The project and NASA’s tweets about it seem to have accomplished the space agency’s mission to share science and research with the wider public – although not everyone is a fan of black hole remix sounds.

On the Internet, people appeared both excited and scared by this. color comparisons To the Lord of the Rings and Silent Hill series.

Others had fun with the audio clip, superimposed on a picture. intergalactic puppy on or a recreated sound considered to be the closest the voice of a mummy.

A Twitter user with black humor wrote, “I can confirm that the black hole noise NASA is making is the sound of hell” Wrote. Another aforementioned: “New genre just released: Cosmic Horror.”

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