An illustration of a black hole spewing material. Depositphotos.

Hear “Light Echoes” From a Black Hole

Here is your chance to listen to the light echoes from a Black Hole 7,800 light-years away.


The universe is an amazing place. It hides many mysteries and beauties. As humankind reaches out into the cosmos, we are greeted with terrifying but also interesting things. Now, NASA has transformed ‘light echoes’ from intense bursts of electromagnetic radiation from material surrounding the stellar-mass black hole V404 Cygni, 7,800 light-years away, into sound. Black Holes are probably the most mysterious cosmic objects we’ve encountered to date. And although there is still much to be learned about these giant monsters, one of the amazing features of black holes is that although light (such as radio, visible, and X-rays) cannot escape from them, the material around them can produce what scientists interpret as ‘light echoes.’ As these bursts of extreme light travel outwards, they bounce off of clouds of gas and dust in space. This is similar to how the beams from your car would scatter as you drive through fog.

V 404 Cygni

As explained in a statement by NASA, V404 Cygni is a system that is home to a black hole with an approximate mass between five and ten times that of the Sun. This giant cosmic monster drags material from an orbiting companion star around it. This material is funneled into a disk that surrounds the stellar-mass black hole. Scientists refer to this disk as the accretion disk. This material occasionally generates bursts of radiation. This includes radiation in the form of X-rays. As the X-rays travel outward into space, they encounter clouds of gas and dust between V404 Cygni and Earth. This causes the radiation to become scattered at various angles.


Chandra and Swift

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Neil Gehrels’ Swift Observatory teamed up and photographed the X-ray light echoes that surround V404 Cygni. Astronomers know precisely how fast light travels. As a result, they have determined the exact distance to this system. This allows them to calculate when these flares occurred. These data and other information help astronomers learn more about dust clouds, including their composition and distances. Scientists turned the data from Swift and Chandra into sound to hear the light echoes.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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