NASA no longer wants to watch but listen to black holes

NASA no longer wants to watch but listen to black holes

Three years after the first direct image of a black hole, NASA teams no longer just want to see them, but also hear them.

If the violent explosions of the Star Wars saga lead us to believe otherwise, science is categorical: in space there is a great silence. Indeed, the “space vacuum” as it is so well called is empty, which makes the movement of sound waves impossible. But this is only true in the “vacuum” of space. It is therefore possible to hear sounds in the large clusters of gas that make up nebulae, regions of the sky very charged with matter, where, as on Earth, it is possible for sound waves to travel.

It was with this small point of detail that NASA researchers then tried to reconstruct the sound of a black hole. They took a close interest in the Perseus cluster. A region of the world, located 250 million light years from us, which includes nearly 200 galaxies. At the center of all these galaxies and all these stars: a black hole.

Radiation that produces sound

It is he who is truly at the heart of NASA’s attention. The American space agency had thus noticed, and since 2003, that the undulations of the black hole, known under the name of Hawking radiation, named after the famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, produced ripples of hot gases nearby.

Unfortunately impossible for us to hear this sound, much too low to reach our ears, which is 57 octaves below middle C. But that’s at least what we thought so far. Indeed, NASA researchers are now trying to find other candidate black holes to be able to find their sound.

While we are in the middle of “black hole week” on the side of NASA, the American federal agency has just published a simulation on its YouTube channel of the very first simulation of the sound of a black hole.

Still a long job

In the list of pre-selected by NASA to continue this work, we surely find the best known of them, M87. Behind this scientific name actually hides a superstar. Indeed this black hole was the first of which an image reached us, it was in 2019. After years of work, the teams of Event Horizon Telescope had succeeded in taking this shot.

The researchers will then superimpose images, playing on frequencies and wavelengths. To carry out this titanic work, three telescopes will be used. One on the ground, with the large Atacama network in Chile, but also the well-known Hubble and finally the Chandra space telescope, launched into space in 1999 and which observes from X-rays.

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