- Researchers say they discovered tones emanating from a black hole
- The discovery affirms a theory by Albert Einstein from 100 years ago
- Merging black holes emit gravitational waves the reverberate at specific tones
- The waves may help inform future research on black holes
Researchers say they’ve discovered tones emanating from a black hole for the first time, confirming a theory from Albert Einstein posited more than 100 years ago. Artist’s impression
Binary black holes like the ones depicted above were the focus of researchers recent study since the emit strong gravitational waves
Yet another black hole theory posited by Albert Einstein more than 100 years ago has been proven by astrophysicists.
An analysis of gravitational waves from the first black hole merger ever detected has recorded tones which the researchers described as ‘ringing’ — a phenomenon predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
‘Previously it was believed these tones were too faint to be detected, yet now we are able to,’ said study co-author of a study in Physical Review Letters and an associate professor at Stony Brook University, Will Farr, in a statement.
‘Just like the measurement of atomic spectra in the late 1800s opened the era of stellar astrophysics and classifying and understanding stars, this is the opening of the era of black hole spectra and understanding black holes and the general relativity that sits behind them.’
Researchers were able to discover the tones by re-analyzing data from the black hole merger classified GW150914 — the same merger that was used in the initial discovery of gravitational waves in 2015 — and combining it with data from other simulations of mergers.
They say that when two black holes begin to merge, the subsequent combined object begins to wobble, similar to a bell after being struck.
Those vibrations emit gravitational waves — oscillations in space-time — that reverberate at specific tones and eventually begin to fade as the merger stops.
While some theories posit that the ringing is contingent on the black hole’s mass and vibration other scientists have posited that quantum mechanics also plays a critical role.
This year has been a particularly fruitful one for researchers looking to unlock mysteries of black holes, with the first-ever photograph taken in April.
Additionally, in a paper published in may, scientists say they verified Stephen Hawking’s namesake theory, Hawking Radiation, which hypothesized that black holes emit radiation from their surfaces due to a mix of different factors regarding quantum physics and gravity.
The newest discovery of ‘ringing’ black holes will likely help discern even more information on the phenomenon according to researchers, especially in concert with data from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave, LIGO, Observatory which was the first machine to ever to detect gravitational waves.
Black holes are strange objects in the universe that get their name from the fact that nothing can escape their gravity, not even light.
If you venture too close and cross the so-called event horizon, the point from which no light can escape, you will also be trapped or destroyed.
For small black holes, you would never survive such a close approach anyway.
The tidal forces close to the event horizon are enough to stretch any matter until it’s just a string of atoms, in a process physicists call ‘spaghettification’.
But for large black holes, like the supermassive objects at the cores of galaxies like the Milky Way, which weigh tens of millions if not billions of times the mass of a star, crossing the event horizon would be uneventful.
Because it should be possible to survive the transition from our world to the black hole world, physicists and mathematicians have long wondered what that world would look like.
They have turned to Einstein’s equations of general relativity to predict the world inside a black hole.
These equations work well until an observer reaches the centre or singularity, where, in theoretical calculations, the curvature of space-time becomes infinite.