Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Chandra ’hears’ a black hole


NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory detected sound waves, for the first time, from a super-massive black hole. The "note" is the deepest ever detected from an object in the universe. The tremendous amounts of energy carried by these sound waves may solve a longstanding problem in astrophysics.

Photo: Sound waves from the black hole in the Perseus cluster (NASA/CXC/IoA/A.Fabian et al.)

The black hole resides in the Perseus cluster, 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.

"We have observed the prodigious amounts of light and heat created by black holes, now we have detected the sound," said Andrew Fabian of the Institute of Astronomy (IoA) in Cambridge, England, and leader of the study.

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 (by 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.

"The Perseus sound waves are much more than just an interesting form of black hole acoustics," said Steve Allen, also of the IoA and a co-investigator in the research. "These sound waves may be the key in figuring out how galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the universe, grow," Allen said.

For years astronomers have tried to understand why there is so much hot gas in galaxy clusters and so little cool gas. Hot gas glowing with X-rays should cool, and the dense central gas should cool the fastest. The pressure in this cool central gas should then fall, causing gas further out to sink in towards the galaxy, forming trillions of stars along the way. Scant evidence has been found for such a flow of cool gas or star formation. This forced astronomers to invent several different ways to explain why the gas contained in clusters remained hot, and, until now, none of them was satisfactory.

Heating caused by a central black hole has long been considered a good way to prevent cluster gas from cooling. Although jets have been observed at radio wavelengths, their effect on cluster gas was unclear since this gas is only detectable in X-rays, and early X-ray observations did not have Chandra’s ability to find detailed structure.

Previous Chandra observations of the Perseus cluster showed two vast, bubble-shaped cavities in the cluster gas extending away from the central black hole. Jets of material pushing back the cluster gas have formed these X-ray cavities, which are bright sources of radio waves. They have long been suspected of heating the surrounding gas, but the mechanism was unknown. The sound waves, seen spreading out from the cavities in the recent Chandra observation, could provide this heating mechanism.

A tremendous amount of energy is needed to generate the cavities, as much as the combined energy from 100 million supernovae. Much of this energy is carried by the sound waves and should dissipate in the cluster gas, keeping the gas warm and possibly preventing a cooling flow. If so, the B-flat pitch of the sound wave, 57 octaves below middle-C, would have remained roughly constant for about 2.5 billion years.

Perseus is the brightest cluster of galaxies in X-rays, and therefore was a perfect Chandra target for finding sound waves rippling through the hot cluster gas. Other clusters show X-ray cavities, and future Chandra observations may yet detect sound waves in these objects.

Steve Roy | MSFC
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

nachricht Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch
20.10.2016 | The Optical Society

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's MAVEN mission observes ups and downs of water escape from Mars

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>