Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Chandra ’hears’ a black hole

10.09.2003


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:
http://www1.msfc.nasa.gov/NEWSROOM/news/releases/2003/03-152.html
http://chandra.nasa.gov
http://chandra.harvard.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Major discovery in controlling quantum states of single atoms
20.02.2018 | Institute for Basic Science

nachricht Observing and controlling ultrafast processes with attosecond resolution
20.02.2018 | Technische Universität München

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: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

'Lipid asymmetry' plays key role in activating immune cells

20.02.2018 | Life Sciences

MRI technique differentiates benign breast lesions from malignancies

20.02.2018 | Medical Engineering

Major discovery in controlling quantum states of single atoms

20.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>