Heads up, People: Black Holes can sing! No kidding.

And not only that — they eat stars!

How do we know this? Well, Wednesday’s press conferences around the world revealed the findings of an international group of 200 astronomers and other determined researchers, aided by world-wide network of telescopes. At last, we have seen an actual image of a Black Hole, this one in a giant galaxy known as M87 in the constellation of Virgo. It’s said to be millions of light-years away from us. Our Milky Way galaxy has a Black Hole, too: it’s called Sagittarius A* and it’s 26,000 light-years from Earth.

Thank goodness for that distance because if a Black Hole can eat stars, it can probably eat us, too. And from what I can tell, that might be painful.  

A Black Hole has an aura, which is like a ring of fire (Hmmmmn ... did Wagner know this when he conjured up a ring of fire to surround Brunnhilde in Die Walkure?) Sorry, I digress. That outer ring is called the event horizon. It attracts light and, like a magnet, pulls it into itself. So bye bye light; hello blackness.

I don’t really understand this and so I am probably not explaining it too well but, as my friend the artist Pat Potter said, this “challenges the imagination.” So, imagine a blackness of infinite size, surrounded by brightness, which it doesn’t like, poised to suck in every shining star in the neighborhood. It gets even bigger with every meal. How soon does it get so big that it eats its whole galaxy? Wow! You don’t have to be a quantum physicist to be intrigued and, in my case, a bit concerned!

And let’s return to the matter of the Black Hole “song.” To me, this is more intriguing than the size, brightness, etc. What does it sound like? Apparently it sends a B flat note, but it’s way below our ability to hear; the sound is 57 octaves below middle C, which is unimaginable to humans. So, if we ever were to hear the Black Hole song, that would doubtless be curtains for us.

Is there a way that we can affect the creeping menace of Black Holes, admittedly far in the future (26,000 light years), singing unhearable songs and eating unsuspecting stars? If there is, scientists don’t know it and so far, don’t appear to be assaying an answer. There’s too much still to learn about the nature of the phenomenon.

But if, like me, you were previously clueless about Black Holes, the image we can now see represents an amazing breakthrough towards more understanding of our small place in the Cosmos.

 

What a wondrous gift we have been given: this beautiful world, tiny as it it is, and the mysteries of the space that surrounds us to awaken our imagination! We are blessed beyond words.

But I must say, I am still worried about the ring of fire (for all we know Brunnhilde is still sleeping within it), to say nothing of being sucked into the darkness …

— JEA

 

 

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