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What's the Loudest Sound in the Universe?

14 Jan 2019, 13:56 UTC
What's the Loudest Sound in the Universe? NASA/CXC/GSFC/S. Walker, ESA/XMM, ROSAT

The human tolerance for sound is, on a galactic level, puny. Volcano eruptions, jackhammer-intensive construction work, My Bloody Valentine concerts—these tinnitus-inducing phenomena are barely whispers besides the majestic, roiling bursts and collisions going on in outer space.

Of course, much of this activity is technically soundless—space’s atmosphere lacks the material that make sound waves possible. So for this week’s Giz Asks, we asked experts in astronomy and astrophysics what the loudest sound would be, if sound as we understand it existed up there. As it turns out, it sometimes does—and when it doesn’t, we can sometimes convert the relevant emissions to a sound tolerable to our tiny, earthbound ears.

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