Monday, October 09, 2017

A long, low, cosmic B-flat: "Black Holes Can Sing."

From an online article in The New York Times, "Space & Cosmos: An Earthling's Guide to Black Holes" 

Reading this, I find the pitch of B-flat takes on new meaning for me. It will accord even greater significance to some of my favorite works in B-flat major, foremost among them the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Johannes Brahms (especially the first movement).

However, this takes "low" to new depths and expands the notion of "long" as well -- to the extent my brain can grasp these things. A long, low B-flat of this mind-blowing nature also, in its way, alters the universe.

B-flat. Who knew?

Black holes can sing.
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. Although it is too low and deep for humans to hear, the B flat note, 57 octaves below middle C, appeared as sound waves that moved out from explosive events at the edge of a supermassive black hole in the galaxy NGC 1275.
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.
The “songs” of black holes may be behind a declining birth rate of stars in the universe. In clusters of galaxies such as Perseus, the home of NGC 1275, the energy these notes carry is thought to keep the gases too hot to condense and form stars.


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