Listen to the ‘light echoes’ of a black hole

MADRID, November 28 (EUROPA PRESS) –

NASA has transformed ‘light echoes’ from intense bursts of electromagnetic radiation from material surrounding the stellar-mass black hole V404 Cygni into sound. at 7,800 light years.

One of the amazing features of black holes is that, although light (such as radio, visible, and X-rays) cannot escape them, the material around them can produce these ‘light echoes’

Traveling outward, these bursts of light can bounce off clouds of gas and dust in space, similar to how beams from car headlights scatter in fog.

V404 Cygni is a system containing a black hole, with a mass between five and ten times that of the Sun, dragging material from an orbiting companion star around it. The material is funneled into a disk that surrounds the stellar-mass black hole, reports NASA.

This material periodically generates bursts of radiation, including X-rays. As the X-rays travel outward, they encounter clouds of gas and dust between V404 Cygni and Earth. and scatter at various angles.

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Neil Gehrels’ Swift Observatory have imaged X-ray light echoes around V404 Cygni. Since astronomers know exactly how fast light travels and have determined an exact distance to this system, they can calculate when these eruptions occurred. These data, along with other information, help astronomers learn more about dust clouds, including their composition and distances.

The sonification of V404 Cygni translates Chandra and Swift’s X-ray data into sound. During sonification, the cursor moves out of the center of the image in a circle. Passing through the light echoes detected in the X-rays (seen as concentric rings in blue by Chandra and red by Swift in the image), tick-like sounds and volume changes are produced to denote the X-ray detection and the brightness variations.

To differentiate the data from the two telescopes, those from Chandra are represented with higher frequency tones, while those from Swift are lower pitched. In addition to the X-rays, the image includes optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey showing background stars. Each star in the optical light causes a musical note. The volume and pitch of the note are determined by the brightness of the star.

These sonifications were led by the Chandra X-ray Center (CXC) and included as part of NASA’s Universe of Learning (UoL) program.