NASA Record Supermassive Black Hole’s Song

For the first time ever, NASA have made soundwaves from a supermassive black hole audible.

The eerie wails wouldn’t sound out of place in a horror film, with some comparing it to a whale’s song or a Pink Floyd track.

While this isn’t the universe’s first celestial melody, we’ve only recently developed the technology to hear them. Astronomers first detected acoustic waves transmitting through the gas surrounding this black hole in 2003.

Principle investigator of the NASA sonification project, Kimberly Arcand, commented, “The idea that there are these supermassive black holes sprinkled throughout the universe that are... belching out incredible songs is a very tantalising thing.”

The sound waves originated from the centre of the Perseus galaxy cluster, which is essentially a giant gas cloud. Pressure waves sent from the centre of the black hole have caused the cluster’s hot gas to ripple, with the cluster containing so much gas that it allows some sound to travel.

The Perseus galaxy cluster is one of Earth’s closest clusters. It’s so full of galaxies, experts assume it to be one of the most enormous objects in the universe.

"The misconception that there is no sound in space originates because most space is a vacuum, providing no way for sound waves to travel,” commented a NASA spokesperson. “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."

NASA’s experts amplified the noise – translating astronomical data into sound – to give the rest of the world a peek into the unknown. The original sound is 57 octaves below middle C, making it inaudible to humans.

“Another way to put this is that they are being heard 144 quadrillion and 288 quadrillion times higher than their original frequency," a NASA spokesperson commented.

Black holes are one of the universe’s greatest mysteries. Even after decades of research, there’s still a lot we don’t know.

A black hole’s gravitational field is so strong that no light can escape. We can’t directly view them with any light we are able to detect, or observe them directly with telescopes detecting x-rays or other forms of electromagnetic radiation. We can only deduce their presence by observing their effect on nearby matter. NASA’s astounding discovery triggers new questions about black holes and potential areas of research to better understand them.  

This audio clip is a portal into corners of the universe many never dreamed they’d reach. NASA have shed some light on the mystery surrounding black holes – what will be discovered next?