Sept. 9, 2003: Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have found, for the first time, sound waves from a supermassive black hole. The “note” is the deepest ever detected from any object in our Universe. The tremendous amounts of energy carried by these sound waves may solve a longstanding problem in astrophysics.
The black hole resides in the Perseus cluster of galaxies 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.
“The Perseus sound waves are much more than just an interesting form of black hole acoustics,” says Steve Allen, of the Institute of Astronomy 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.”