Gas surrounding a blackhole

Why are people freaking out about the sound of a black hole?

“In space no one can hear you scream,” the famous tagline from outer space horror classic “Alien,” might not be true based on a recent viral audio clip from NASA.

The 34-second clip of the sound a black hole makes was released in May but picked up steam online this week after NASA tweeted out what it’s calling a “Black Hole Remix.” The sound, which evokes a deep spectral moan or some monstrous interstellar whale song, is based on a supermassive black hole located at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster, located about 250 million light years from Earth.

The idea of recording audio from outer space is strange, since it’s commonly thought there is no sound in space. But this idea is a “popular misconception,” NASA said in a statement. While much of space is a vacuum where sound can’t travel, a galaxy cluster like Perseus has enough hot gas to help serve as a medium for sound waves.

But something needs to cause those sound waves to move, and that’s where the black hole comes in.

“There’s all this hot gas surrounding the black hole, and the black hole is basically spitting out energy in some sort of periodic way––just like a speaker is moving in a periodic way–to give you some frequency,” says Jonathan Blazek, Northeastern assistant professor of physics. “That means that essentially the gas is pushing against its neighboring gas and really propagating a physical sound wave out from the center.”

Read more on News@Northeastern

Photo by NASA

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