You’ve seen the new Image of the Milky Way’s Black Hole here. Now there’s a sonification — translation into sound — of the latest image from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). Sagittarius A* is the name of our galaxy’s central supermassive black hole.

Best heard with headphones – the binaural separation is a significant feature of this recording.

Details of the process:

  • This is an image scan, starting from 12 o’clock and moving around clockwise.
  • The image brightness of Sagittarius A* controls the volume and the distance from the center controls the frequency of the sounds.
  • The emissions from closer to the black hole (which orbits faster) is mapped to high frequencies.
  • The sound is rendered in binaural audio. When listened to with headphones, the sound will appear to start directly in front of you and then move clockwise all the way around your head!
  • Listen for the three bright regions at about 1, 5, and 9 o’clock, as well as the very low tones indicating fainter light from outside the main ring.

Sonification Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/K.Arcand, SYSTEM Sounds (M. Russo, A. Santaguida)

Thanks to the process, scientists converted the black hole into a sound file.

A still from the video showing the cursor in a bright region of the black hole’s surrounding cloud. This is a louder part of the video.

Sound waves of the Perseus galaxy cluster boosted 57 octave (a huge amount) to be audible to humans.

Here’s another sonification, created using the same techniques, but this one is at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster, some 240 million light years away.

Editor’s Note

This article’s author David Raiklen was selected to write it based on his own direct personal experience with the sonification of astronomical data. Our own sun provided the sonification sources used in Mr. Raiklen’s own video creation SUN, that mixes live music with solar sonification, all recorded at famous Mount Wilson Observatory. It is part of a larger, personal project of Raiklen’s, called the Universe Symphony.

If you are interested in scoring for television, games, and motion pictures, or specifically in the works of David Raiklen as a composer, you can subscribe to his YouTube Channel here. – ed.


David Raiklen
David Raiklen

David Raiklen wrote, directed and scored his first film at age 9. He began studying keyboard and composing at age 5. He attended, then taught at UCLA, USC and CalArts. Among his teachers are John Williams and Mel Powel.
He has worked for Fox, Disney and Sprint. David has received numerous awards for his work, including the 2004 American Music Center Award. Dr. Raiklen has composed music and sound design for theater (Death and the Maiden), dance (Russian Ballet), television (Sing Me a Story), cell phone (Spacey Movie), museums (Museum of Tolerance), concert (Violin Sonata ), and film (Appalachian Trail).
His compositions have been performed at the Hollywood Bowl and the first Disney Hall. David Raiken is also host of a successful radio program, Classical Fan Club.