Astronomy is the scientific study of celestial objects (such as stars, planets, comets, and galaxies) and phenomena that originate outside the Earth's atmosphere (such as the cosmic background radiation). It is concerned with the evolution, physics, chemistry, meteorology, and motion of celestial objects, as well as the formation and development of the universe.

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Black_Hole_Milkyway.jpg  Lior Burko of the University of Alabama wanted to know what happens when you silence the sound of a black hole. However, they could not afford supercomputer time to run the simulation.

But Burko read on the internet that it was possible to wire up a group of PS3s so that they had the same number-crunching ability, and decided to give it a try.

The Alabama PS3 Gravity Grid was a network of 16 Playstation 3 consoles grouped together in a cluster capable of running simulations. It would have cost the scientists $5,000 each time they wanted to run a simulation on an ordinary supercomputer, but the PS3 grid cost them $6,000 and they could use it as often as they liked.

Burko's PS3 Gravity Grid resolved an ongoing dispute over the speed at which spinning black holes stop vibrating just after forming or being unbalanced by an outside object. There were two theories. The first is that black holes go silent at relatively fast speeds, while another said they went quiet at slower speeds. The simulations proved that the first theory was correct, depending on the mass of the black hole.

Burko explained it via an analogy with a bell, which rings, but eventually gets quiet. The energy that goes out with the sound waves is energy that the bell is losing. This is exactly what a black hole does, only with gravitational waves instead of sound waves.

Our Science Editor adds: Perhaps scientists in Alabama should concentrate more on science than marrying their cousins. If light cannot escape from a black hole at 186,000,000 miles per second, what chance does sound have at a pathetic 650 miles per hour? And they might also want to consider that sound cannot travel in a vacuum. Apart from that, good science all round. Idiots.

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