A mysterious song. As a black hole has just been discovered in the heart of our galaxy, NASA has released the sound of the Perseus black hole, one of the most massive clusters of galaxies in the known universe. Amazing sound.
Sound of a ship taking off, enigmatic music from certain video games, the sound of the black hole published by NASA on May 4, 2022 on its site gets our imagination going.
This is the sound of Perseus, a supermassive black hole located in the center of the cluster of galaxies of the same name, 250 million light years from here (quite close to us on the scale of the universe).
To understand what this sound is and how astrophysicists were able to capture it, we contacted Frédéric Marin, researcher at the Strasbourg Astronomical Observatory, an astrophysicist specializing in black holes. Frédéric Marin has been trying to understand black holes for years. “They are the most exotic objects in the universe, with fascinating properties“.
Holes that emit sound. Rather a song, by the way. “The void between the galaxies does not allow sound to propagate“explains Frédéric Marin”and astrophysicists have no instruments to capture sound within the galaxy. They therefore measured the sound wave thanks to the X-rays collected in the gas close to the black hole..
“Depending on their speeds, the gases emitted around the black hole will collide, compress and generate light. It is this light that has been translated into sound.“, explains the astrophysicist.
The sound published by NASA is therefore a sound translation of the observation of X-rays by the Chandra X-ray telescope. A sound raised by 57 octaves so that it can be heard by the human ear. There would be as many sounds as there are black holes, that is to say several tens of billions. For Frédéric Marin, this sound is a “deep, heavy sound, like the sound of the wind at the bottom of an abyss. A sound that was not meant to be heard by man“.
This sonification is not the first. In 2019, the Hubble Space Telescope had already succeeded in sonifying a cluster of galaxies. More musical but just as deep, the sound generated from an image captured on August 13, 2018, translates the position of objects from top to bottom and their light intensity.
“Most of the visible spots are galaxies with countless stars. […] Stars and compact galaxies produce short, clear sounds, while extended spiral galaxies emit longer, pitch-changing notes. describes NASA under its YouTube video (in English).
These sounds canpave the way for an unexpected line of research to probe the properties of gases emitted closer to black holes” continues Frédéric Marin who also welcomes the publication of these sounds. “Astronomy is a visual science that the visually impaired cannot always benefit from“, this cosmic music allows them to discover some of the complexity, but also the beauty of our universe.