Getting Eaten By Black Holes Makes Stars ‘Scream’
Yes, I know, there’s no such thing as ‘sound’ in space but come on you’d be screaming to if you were getting eaten by a black hole and you wouldn’t care if anyone heard you or not.
On the serious side however astronomers at the University of Michigan have managed to measure the noise made by a star as it was swallowed by a black hole in a galaxy some 3.9 billion light years away; which, in scientific terms is referred to as “quasiperiodic oscillations”.
It is those oscillations that when converted in an audible tone that come out as ultra-low D-sharp.
The blips, scientifically known as “quasiperiodic oscillations,” occurred steadily every 200 seconds, but occasionally disappeared. Such signals have often been detected at smaller black holes and they’re believed to emanate from material about to be sucked in, explains Rubens Reis, an Einstein Postdoctoral Fellow and first author of a paper on the work published this week in Science Express.
“In order for the black hole to feed from a star that its gravity has broken apart, the remains of the star must form an accretion disk surrounding the black hole,” Reis says.
“The disk gets heated up and we can see emissions from the disk very close to the black hole in X-rays. As this matter is falling in, it gives a quasiperiodic wobble and that’s the signal we detected.”
“You can think of it as hearing the star scream as it gets devoured, if you like,” adds Jon Miller, astronomy professor and a co-author of the paper.
While similar phenomena has been captured in the past with other big black holes this is the farthest away one that the astronomers have been able to capture.
image courtesy of Futurity via NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center