A Black Hole Sings in B Flat

galaxy ngc 1275

Galaxy NGC 1275. Credit NASA.

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.

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
This entry was posted in Anthology, Quotations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Black Hole Sings in B Flat

  1. kestrelart says:

    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?

    Liked by 1 person

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