apparently there is sound in outer space after all!

Black Hole Sound Waves: Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have found, for the first time, sound waves from a supermassive black hole. The "note" is the deepest ever detected from any object in our Universe. [...]

The black hole resides in the Perseus cluster of galaxies located 250 million light years from Earth. In 2002, astronomers obtained a deep Chandra observation that shows ripples in the gas filling the cluster. These ripples are evidence for sound waves that have traveled hundreds of thousands of light years away from the cluster's central black hole. [...]

In musical terms, the pitch of the sound generated by the black hole translates into the note of B flat. But, a human would have no chance of hearing this cosmic performance because the note is 57 octaves lower than middle-C. For comparison, a typical piano contains only about seven octaves. At a frequency over a million billion times deeper than the limits of human hearing, this is the deepest note ever detected from an object in the Universe.

Update: danfuzz notes:

A little calculation reveals that the period of the "sound wave" is about 20 million years. Yay google calculator:

    1 / ((middle c / (6th root of 2)) / (2^57))
    = 19 593 253.1 years

"middle c / (6th root of 2)" is the b-flat below middle c.

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25 Responses:

  1. loosechanj says:

    Isn't that the note that makes people crap their pants?

  2. baconmonkey says:

    when is the DNA getting hyper gravitational quantum subwoofers?

  3. selectronica says:

    This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen...

    "...the B-flat pitch of the sound wave, 57 octaves below middle-C, would have remained roughly constant for about 2.5 billion years."

    So God/dess/e/s sing. This kicks serious ass!

    • selectronica says:

      Damn it, that picture was supposed to be way smaller. I am still learning this LJ thing. Sorry.

    • jwz says:

      They would if they could, but -- oops! -- there's no such thing as god/dess/e/s. Sorry.

      • selectronica says:

        Then who are those voices that are always talking to me.

      • 1eyedkunt says:

        i'm not a believer in any kind of god/dess/e/s, but i'm really curious as to why you're so damned sure they don't exist. do you have some sort of proof the rest of us haven't been privy to?

        • jwz says:

          We call it Occam's Razor. It tends to leave the burden of proof with those making the extraordinary claims.

          • 1eyedkunt says:

            maybe it's just me, but i find the scope of modern physics theory (which, i think, is arguably the competing field of study for your occam's razor) to be no less "extraordinary" than the spiritual ideas you disparage.

            • jwz says:

              So you're claiming that quantum theory, string theory, etc violate Occam's Razor? They may sound loopy, but the only reason they exist is that they explain phenomena that previous theories do not. Just because a model is complex doesn't mean it's wrong, if no simpler model works. And just because a model works doesn't mean it's true: but lacking a simpler explanation, we have to go on the assumption that it is.

              Of course, some say that "It Is God's Will" is the simplest explanation of all. It doesn't leave one much reason to get out of bed in the morning, however.

              • 1eyedkunt says:

                no, if i look at physics theory as competing with religious theory, i'd be hard pressed to say which one is the simpler of the two, which should be the deciding factor in terms of occam's razor, yes?

                look, i'm just saying that when it comes to explaining the nature and origins of our universe, it's mostly just theory at this point. not a whole lot's been proven either way, and what we have learned has just begged bigger and bigger questions. i think it's a bit early to be declarining any unequivocal winners just yet.

                • jwz says:

                  "Physics" isn't the competitor with religion, "science" is. The nature of science is that if you proved some aspect of 'physics' wrong, scientists would say 'well ok then' and move on. Because the nature of science is testing and refuting hypotheses. Proving something wrong is just as valuable as proving something right, because both facts lead you closer to reality.

                  The nature of religion is "revealed truth" that should not be questioned. "Proof denies faith." If you're asking the questions at all, you're blaspheming.

                  Quantum physics may be wacky, but it's wacky for supportable reasons. "It's turtles all the way down" may be a "simpler" theory in some sense, but it's not useful predictive model, etc etc.

                  • 1eyedkunt says:

                    The nature of religion is "revealed truth" that should not be questioned. "Proof denies faith."

                    not necessarily. from what i've seen, religion is defined as a belief in a supernatural power. belief encompasses faith, but isn't restricted to it. that belief could concievably be arrived at using scientific method. true, i can't think of any existing religions based on solid observation, but that doesn't mean one couldn't exist.

                    but that's really beside the point.

                    i think that the difference you point out between religion and science (and you're right, it is science, not physics, i just used physics because it is the branch of science that, for me, begs the most religios-natured questions) is irrellevant. what makes them proper competetors is that both seek to explain life the universe and everything (regardless of their prefered methods, or lack thereof). and i agree with you that science, and the scientific method, makes more logical sense than "revealed truth." but that doesn't mean i'm going to completely rule out the existence of a higher power, when it hasn't been disproven scientifically. for someone who talks so much about science and the scientific method, i was surprised to see you unequivocally denying the existance of something that has not been proven or disproven. it seemed very unscientific of you. that's all i was tryig to say.

                    (i also believe that contemporary scientific theories regarding life the universe and everything don't necessarily exclude the presence of a higher power. seems possible to me that the two contenders could exist in conjuction.)

                  • jwz says:

                    But see, that's where Occam's Razor comes in. There are all kinds of things that "could be", with no way of testing or verifying the theory. It "could be" that it's turtles all the way down; so what. If, in the absense of any supporting evidence, and in the presence of simpler theories that explain observations, you still grasp at the more outlandish theory, then you're making your decision based on an emotional fantasy instead of reason.

                    So yeah, I'll say uneqivocably that Stacy's voices are schizophrenia, not gods. If someday there is proof otherwise, I'll gladly admit I was wrong, and call it yet another victory for science.

                  • cessibaby says:

                    galileo was a devout catholic even through his trial and execution, he was also devoted to science and questioning what were then seen as absolute truths. science and religion need not be enemies and they're not mutually exclusive. it all depends on your idea of God and your idea of science. i personally don't believe in religion because its a man-made creation and yet so is science. it has just as much bias and "outlandish fantasy" as any religion its theories can be "proven," proven theoretically of course, did the scientists actually hear that sound coming from the black hole 2.5 million billion light years away, no they didn't, cuz we humans don't have the ability to perceive it, their conclusions are based on a "faith" as well, a faith in mathematical equations and astronomical observations. I think that humans are probably missing most of whats out there, another power or force might exist, one that we have no way of perceiving and thus no way of proving. But to fervently deny the existance of God is as faulty and as "unscientific" as to fervently proclaim one.

                  • jwz says:

                    I guess my only reply to that would have to be "whatever."

                  • selectronica says:

                    Religion is evil. It keeps people from spirituality and science.

                    Spirituality is inquisitive. It looks at things as they could be, as far as their imagination will take them.

                    Science is practical. It measures and dicovers the way they are, as finely as their instruments will allow.

                    Neither is mutually exclusive, imo. Just some people tend toward the more frivolous side of life and others feel more comfortable on the practical. Some people work reasonably well in the middle.

                    And when I first heard the whole turtles analogy, it reminded me of nothing so much as fractals. (I don't suppose you are going to tell me fractals are unproven.) What if the ancients just really perceived this, but had no scientific language to relate it, so they used an analogy to explain what they "perceived".

                    We are now getting instruments more and more refined. Maybe someday someone using their inuition and the right instruments might make an immense discovery. Things we hadn't even previously suspected existed. How many years ago was it that bacteria/virus/et al, DNA, etc hadn't even been conceived of.

                    My own personal humble opinion- I know what I know and I feel what I feel- and if I ain't hurtin' anyone- what the hell should someone care if I believe in ghosts and god/dess/e/s?

                    Whatever- I just feel sorry for stick-in-the-mud party-poopers like you. :p

  4. mikeys says:

    "the hihat accent will follow in 6000 years"

  5. That's some freaky shit right there. I love just thinking about the mere concept of black holes.
    Love your "Don't touch" themed picture up there by the way lol.

  6. waywind says:

    Hey, waitaminute... I thought sound couldn't travel through space? I must've missed something here.

    Well, at any rate, it's extremely cool. I figure you would be able to hear it, sort of, because a note /that/ low-pitched would make everything near it shake and vibrate. Although, next to a black hole, you'd have a lot of stuff like that going on anyway, to say the least...

    • jonabbey says:

      Sound can travel wherever you have a reactive medium capable of transmitting pressure waves. Presumably there's enough gas in the region of this thing that pressure waves can propagate.

      And according to the article, the cycle time of the sound wave is on the order of tens of millions of years. That means that it's unlikely that most _species_ would live long enough to witness both peaks of the sound wave passing through one's vicinity.

      The only reason we're able to perceive it with instruments is that we can look into space and see the gas cloud and the millions of light years-wide perturbations within it.

    • selectronica says:

      "Hey, waitaminute... I thought sound couldn't travel through space? I must've missed something here.

      "Well, at any rate, it's extremely cool..."

      It really is! Now space movies can have, without guilt, all the noisy explosions we want in 'em.

      (Of course if it were a realistic movie, we would all be dead before the sound could get to the theatre. And we wouldn't be able to hear it anyway. So how would we ever really know?)

  7. havardk says:

    "The Big Bang. The ultimate hero of low frequency." -- Yello