To nobody’s surprise, a black hole sounds like the wails of a thousand tortured souls and it’s pretty spooky. It’s not been long since we’ve gotten the first glimpse of what a black hole actually looks like, but NASA has somehow managed to put together a clip of what a supermassive black hole sounds like, after some technical tweaking.
The wailing black hole in question is situated 250 million light-years away, in the centre of the Perseus Cluster of galaxies. You might recall from your Physics class at school that it’s impossible to hear anything in space but NASA has a probable explanation for how we can hear the sound from the black hole that’s galaxies away from us. “The misconception that there is no sound in space originates because most space is a vacuum, providing no way for sound waves to travel. A galaxy cluster has so much gas that we’ve picked up actual sound,” read a Tweet from the official NASA account.
The misconception that there is no sound in space originates because most space is a ~vacuum, providing no way for sound waves to travel. A galaxy cluster has so much gas that we've picked up actual sound. Here it's amplified, and mixed with other data, to hear a black hole! pic.twitter.com/RobcZs7F9e— NASA Exoplanets (@NASAExoplanets) August 21, 2022
This is the first time any type of sound from a black hole has been extracted. A few years ago, astronomers over at the Chandra X-ray Observatory detected something astonishing around the Perseus Cluster black hole. There were acoustic waves propagating through the enormous amounts of gas surrounding the black hole. These waves, however, included the lowest note in the Universe ever detected by humans and were clearly well below the limits of human hearing.
Recent sonification worked towards bringing up the recording a few octaves (144 and 288 quadrillions to be precise) and added notes that were previously detected from the black hole and released the audio clip that would haunt you for the rest of your days.
These sound waves were extracted radially, or outwards, from the black hole and played in an anti-clockwise direction from the centre, so that we can hear the sounds in all directions from the black hole at pitches that are much higher than the original frequency.
The reason why this black hole is emitting sound waves is that these waves are a way in which the intracluster medium (the cosmic stuff that drifts between galaxies) can get heated up to a higher temperature than the area surrounding it. This high temperature ultimately allows for a star to be formed. So it can be concluded that these sound waves play a vital role in the evolution of galaxy clusters.
While the discovery is infinitely exciting for astronomers who want to learn more about the secrets of our mysterious Universe, we can’t say it’s really good for our ability to sleep without nightmares at night.