As a science fiction writer, I like to scroll through the news looking for weird scientific happenings or vague, unexplained phenomena that could easily be spun into a fantastical story.
Sometimes you get bamboozled by clickbait titles and half-baked articles with no research behind them. That’s the game you play.
But sometimes you get really lucky and find a piece that just clicks. And when NASA put out their video of the blackhole’s sound, it was like getting a whole nugget while panning for gold.
What Sound Does A Blackhole Make?
Now, one of the things I was taught as a kid was that there isn’t sound in space. That Star Wars was space fantasy, not science fiction, and laser beams and explosions in space don’t make cool noises. Space is a vacuum and sounds are pretty much sucked up into the void.
Well, whoever told me that, they lied. There ARE cool noises in space, and NASA just revealed an eerie sound coming from a blackhole. Take a listen:
Now, this wailing, windy sound isn’t what you’ll hear if you roll up to the blackhole in your spaceship. It’s taken scientists a long time to be able to parse out these sounds.
According to NASA, these sound waves were born out of data collected from the blackhole in the Perseus galaxy in 2003. Technically, the “pressure waves” sent out from the blackhole rippled through hot gasses and created these sound waves, but they weren’t on the spectrum of human comprehension.
A new sonification program just now made the sounds from this blackhole audible to human ears. In fact, the waves were raised by 57 octaves in order for us to hear them!
In NASA’s official press release, they said that they also were able to formulate sound data from another blackhole, commonly known as M87. That video is below:
Spinning Yarns with Blackhole Sound
For some reason, the first thing I thought about when I heard the Perseus blackhole sounds was the big singing sinkhole from Adventure Time. I’m not sure why, but something about sounds coming from large, dark spaces made my brain connect those two things.
But it got me thinking about the importance of music in SFF media. In Adventure Time, the song from the sinkhole is sweet, and helps Finn and Jake just enjoy the world around them.
What does the blackhole song mean? Could the sound waves be translated into some kind of code? Will the Fox Mulders of the world latch onto the audio clips and try to dissect messages from aliens?
Perhaps the sound is the hum of an ancient mothership that’s fighting to escape the clutches of the blackhole. Or maybe it’s a warning siren, and blackholes are like the beacons of Gondor, but from space.
New discoveries like this help drive the SFF collective braintrust, and I’m curious to hear what you all think the blackhole sounds might be.
Other Neat NASA Happenings
The blackhole sounds videos were just the most recent things NASA released, but they’ve been on a roll for the past few weeks. The James Webb Space Telescope has been snapping some awesome pictures since it replaced Hubble in December of 2021.
One of the most recent pictures was a stunning snapshot of Jupiter. The image was captured with the Webb telescope and infrared filters were applied to bring out the bright details of the planet’s atmosphere. The filters helped to pinpoint auroras and other hazes that are a part of Jupiter’s make-up.
This picture of Jupiter is mesmerizing because for so long, we’ve seen cloudy or indistinct images, but this one is so clear and crisp. It reminds me of the acrylic pouring videos or a glass marble. It’s beautiful.
Out of all of the Webb telescope images, this one is my favorite, aside from the Cosmic Cliffs image that was released in July.
If you’re a fan of space exploration and vintage Space Race literature, you should check out the interview we did with Alan Smale. His new book, Hot Moon, is an alternate history about the US and Soviet race to the moon.