There is great buzz today around black holes in celebration of the latest observations. The sense of awe these phenomena induce has intersected just now with my private boning up on fundamentals of music theory, leaving me astounded on many levels.
In 2003, an international team led by the X-ray astronomer Andrew Fabian discovered the longest, oldest, lowest note in the universe — a black hole’s song — using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. The B flat note, 57 octaves below middle C, appeared as sound waves that emanated from explosive events at the edge of a supermassive black hole in the galaxy NGC
The notes stayed in the galaxy and never reached us, but we couldn’t have heard them anyway. The lowest note the human ear can detect has an oscillation period of one-twentieth of a second. This B flat’s period was 10 million years.
(JoAnna Klein and Dennis Overbye, “What Is a Black Hole? Here’s Our Guide for Earthlings,” NYTimes, 4-10-19)
(c) 2019 JMN.
Such a cool concept – and Bb is a great note too. But I wonder did it drop in pitch across the ages or does the pitch change with the expansion of the universe?
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Excellent question. I would like to know that and more about this inconceivably low pitch the hole is humming!