Einstein Science Reporting for Kids
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15-Aug-2012

Contact: Megan Watzke
mwatzke@cfa.harvard.edu
617-496-7998
Chandra X-ray Center

Please don't stop the music!



The image on the left shows the newly discovered Phoenix Cluster, located about 5.7 billion light years from Earth. This composite includes an X-ray image from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in purple, an optical image from the 4m Blanco telescope in red, green and blue, and an ultraviolet (UV) image from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) in blue. The Chandra data show hot gas in the cluster and the optical and UV images show galaxies in the cluster and in nearby parts of the sky.

Did you know that the sounds we hear on Earth are just vibrations of air? But that doesn't mean that space is an eerily silent place, just because there isn't any air out there. This is because air is a collection of gases, and there are clouds of gas in space that can vibrate and allow sound to travel too.

Okay, so we know how sound can travel in space, but what's making all of the noise? The answer is powerful objects that give off huge amounts of energy enough to make the gases vibrate.

For example, in addition to gobbling up material, black holes also release powerful jets of energy. Astronomers already know that the black hole at the centre of a collection of galaxies called the Perseus Cluster is powerful enough to make a very deep sound.

"We thought that these very deep sounds might be found in galaxy clusters everywhere," says astronomer Ryan Foley. However, Ryan is a member of a team of astronomers who have recently observed a galaxy cluster called the Phoenix Cluster (shown in the photo above) that is totally silent. This means that either not all galaxy clusters produce sound, or that sometimes the music stops!

Cool Fact: As well as real sounds in space, astronomers sometimes convert the light that they observe into sounds so that they can analyse it better. Check out the weird space sounds made from light on this NASA website: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/sounds2/index-nasa.html

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