Black Holes: X-Ray Emission

ambience: black hole sounds

Imagine that you’re at the edge of a star so dense and whose gravity is so strong that light cannot escape from it. We’re listening to a picture in sound of a black hole. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. If a star gets too near a black hole, gaseous matter on the star’s surface will spiral into the black hole, much like water going down a drain. Thanks to its great speed and friction, this gas heats up to temperatures of millions of degrees, which makes it glow with X-rays, and then jets of the gas shoot away from the black hole, moving close to the speed of light. This may all sound like a scene out of “Star Wars”, but Edward Morgan, an astrophysicist at MIT, assures us that it’s true. He’s actually monitored one of these black holes with the help of a satellite-based X-Ray detector, and he’s even translated the energies of the X-Rays into the sounds we’re listening to right now.

“Sound of course does not travel through space. So what we’ve done is we’ve taken the X-Ray light curve and turned it into sound. So what we’re hearing is the X-Ray emission just turned into pressure waves so that your ear could hear them.”

Star matter that’s drawn towards the black hole forms a moving disc around the hole. The sounds that we’re listening to represent what’s going on inside one of those disks of matter.

“The whoop, whoop, whoop you’re hearing is as pieces of the inner disk break off and are falling into the disk or are emitted into jets.”

Scientists say that learning what happens in and around black holes can help answer much larger questions about space, time, and matter.

“If we’re ever going to do any kind of long term space travel , we really have to understand the interactions of time and space and matter.”

If you’d like to hear about our new Pulse of the Planet CD, please visit our website at pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.

music

Black Holes: X-Ray Emission

Black holes send off x-rays, and by translating the x-rays that we receive into pressure waves, we can recreate the sounds of a black hole.
Air Date:10/02/2008
Scientist:
Transcript:


ambience: black hole sounds

Imagine that you're at the edge of a star so dense and whose gravity is so strong that light cannot escape from it. We're listening to a picture in sound of a black hole. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. If a star gets too near a black hole, gaseous matter on the star's surface will spiral into the black hole, much like water going down a drain. Thanks to its great speed and friction, this gas heats up to temperatures of millions of degrees, which makes it glow with X-rays, and then jets of the gas shoot away from the black hole, moving close to the speed of light. This may all sound like a scene out of "Star Wars", but Edward Morgan, an astrophysicist at MIT, assures us that it's true. He's actually monitored one of these black holes with the help of a satellite-based X-Ray detector, and he's even translated the energies of the X-Rays into the sounds we're listening to right now.

"Sound of course does not travel through space. So what we've done is we've taken the X-Ray light curve and turned it into sound. So what we're hearing is the X-Ray emission just turned into pressure waves so that your ear could hear them."

Star matter that's drawn towards the black hole forms a moving disc around the hole. The sounds that we're listening to represent what's going on inside one of those disks of matter.

"The whoop, whoop, whoop you're hearing is as pieces of the inner disk break off and are falling into the disk or are emitted into jets."

Scientists say that learning what happens in and around black holes can help answer much larger questions about space, time, and matter.

"If we're ever going to do any kind of long term space travel , we really have to understand the interactions of time and space and matter."

If you'd like to hear about our new Pulse of the Planet CD, please visit our website at pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.

music