The sound of a dying star
August 16th, 2012
11:52 AM ET

The sound of a dying star

By Libby Lewis, CNN

(CNN) - Think of this: you’re an astronomer, and you and your team have detected, for the first time, a star being devoured by a supermassive black hole almost four billion light years away.

This is the first time astronomers have captured this drama happening so long ago – and so far away – with a black hole this large.

So, you’re the astronomer – and your team sees this by scanning and crunching a pile of numbers.

(The numbers represent the signals captured by NASA’s SWIFT satellite and orbiting telescopes, and beamed down to Earth.)

Fine. But how do you get this across to the REST of us?

The astronomer we’re talking about is Jon Miller at the University of Michigan. He figured – what if we describe what it would SOUND like?

[2:43] “Sound doesn’t travel in space, unfortunately. But Star Wars wouldn’t have been much fun if things blew up silently, right?”

So he and his team translated the frequency of the signals they captured in all those numbers into a sound. Listen to find out how.

soundoff (165 Responses)
  1. Randy Causey

    I think I heard whales mating.
    16 octaves below concert A?
    that's a sound closer to tectonic plate movement.

    Listen to this "Geophysicist Shares a Song of Earth's Polarity"


    this is where the science is put into something the rest of us can consume

    August 25, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Light

    The amount of retardation in these comments.

    Your expectations are too high, you think you're all apart of the minority of genius's in the world in some way, and think you know better, but you don't.

    You're a common peasant stuck in a box earning next to nothing and working for someone who spits on you on a daily basis. You'll never have the brains these people do so stop trying to argue that you're smarter and more knowledgeable than the ones who have devoted their lives to the study of space and science.

    August 22, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Photon

      Thank you so much for saying that. I'm a PhD candidate and have seen my fare share of wannabe scientists drop away from professional science because of how hard it is. I haven't made it yet myself, though I hope to. The process teaches me humility and that the great masters are so well respected because of the quality of their thought and the accuracy of their predictions. Too many people try to deal with their own ignorance by pretending they understand that which they do not. Your words, angry though they may be, come from a truthful place. The best and brightest of us have to study for about a decade before we can hope to even contribute to the scientific process, and laypeople keep belittling us by dismissing our ideas without even understanding them. It's disrespectful to the years of my life that i have dedicated to unlearning that which I thought I knew, and it's disrespectful to all the scientists who are much better than I.

      August 22, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Teimoor

    i had to laugh at the end of this report ..... "imagine if we could ......."
    Science reporting at its best.

    August 22, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Seth

    LOL... Why the hell would they translate light fluctuations into sound that no one can hear?
    It's not sound to begin with, why would they translate the data to sound unless to create an interesting AUDIBLE experience??

    Next they're going to translate the data into a haiku and never tell anyone about it..

    Then they're going to translate the data into microscopic dots on a pin head and never give anyone a magnifying glass..

    THEN they're going to attempt the most technically mind boggling conversion to date......
    They will convert the data of light fluctuations that cannot be seen with the naked eye.. into actual LIGHT that cannot be seen with the naked eye!
    And then they are going to use a satellite to detect these light fluctuations and record it as data so they can convert it INTO A HAIKU! AND NEVER TELL ANYONE ABOUT IT!

    August 22, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      I never, ever post on these things but that was awesome. So... thanks!

      August 22, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • mickabyrne

      its a radio story! thats the medium! there's no point visualising it

      August 22, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rico

      Awesome analogy!

      August 22, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Paul L

    CNN's science reporting will always suck, and this is a particularly hilarious example.

    She forgot to mention we couldn't hear the sound but we could physically feel it at a high enough amplitude, most likely in our sternums.

    August 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Not Deaf

    What must I download where to hear the sound?

    August 22, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. zacharybradyart

    Most anticlimactic thing ever. Also Libby, you kind of sucked at reporting this. We are adults wanting to know about science. Not kindergarten students learning the alphabet. Listen to some Radio Lab or get Neil DeGrasse Tyson to report this kind of thing next time.

    August 22, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. B.

    Wow, after reading these comments I have lost so much confidence in humanity. Where is you sense of imagination. Everyone is so wrapped up in the headline and the reporter that they have no appreciation for the science involved. Sorry it wasn't as entertaining as Access Hollywood or they didn't feed you entertainment like a McDonalds does cheeseburgers. Grown an imagination and shut your lips, or better yet go investigate Kim Kardasians wardrobe and leave the science up to those with a brain.

    August 22, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • gingerygiggles

      What are you talking about? Imagination has nothing to do with this! I came here to hear science! We were lied to! We're a bit pissed!

      August 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • matty e

      maybe when they make an app for this people will care more..

      August 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Hyperion

    Where is the soung? They are just taling about something and in the end they are just playing on a keyboard...

    August 22, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
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    I used to be suggested this web site by my cousin. I am no longer positive whether or not this put up is written through him as no one else understand such special approximately my trouble. You are incredible! Thanks!

    August 19, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. HeadSlap

    Perhaps, "Reporter Plays D Sharp on a Synthesizer for Ten Seconds" would have been a better title. Great idea, abysmal execution. You might as well add in some little *pew!*pew!* laser-gun sounds for effect.

    August 18, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
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