AstroCappella: High Energy Groove

Music by Padi Boyd and Jim Heagy
Lyrics by Alan Smale and Padi Boyd

X Rays, Gamma Rays, high energy
Hot stars, heavy stars, high density
Quasars, black holes, supernovae
Powerhouses lighting up the Galaxy
Flashing, bursting, pulsing objects we could see
If we had X-ray eyes, if we had X-ray eyes
Going up the spectrum, repeat after me
Radio, infrared, visible, UV
Keep going all the way what do you see?
That's X-rays, gamma rays, high energy
An X-ray photon has a high frequency
Which means a shorter wavelength than you could ever see

X-rays come from various processes
Like a cloud of gas above about a million degrees
Or magnetic fields that send electrons swarming like bees
Or even neutron stars emitting like black bodies
And you get X-rays from star stuff that came near to and fell
Into a black hole's gravitational potential well

If we flew above the atmosphere and looked out at the skies
And if we could do it with X-ray eyes
We'd see more flashing and popping than you realize
Objects winking on and off like fireflies
The X-ray sky isn't calm and quiet
It's more like a rockin' high energy riot


X-rays can show you the roots of your teeth
Shine them through your body see the bones underneath
But don't go thinking that we X-ray the stars
'Cause they're billions of miles away, much too far!
We collect all the X-rays that they send to Earth
Telling tales of star death, giving hints of star birth
Here's a story of a pair of stars called Cygnus X-1
One's a black hole many times the mass of the Sun
With a disk of gas surrounding it, spiralling in
Sucked from the companion star's outermost skin
We see the high-speed flickering as star stuff flies in
A one way trip beyond the event horizon
A cosmic lighthouse flashes in space
It's an X-ray pulsar with a regular pace
A neutron star 30 miles around at best
Spinning 'round its axis once a second or less
Then way beyond the Milky Way the active galaxies
Are the furthest biggest things our X-ray eyes can see
Point your X-ray specs toward the Sun's location
You'll notice that along with its slow rotation
You'll see active loops and plasma arcs
In a solar dance producing X-ray sparks
The X-ray Sun isn't serene and smooth
It's a dynamic and changing High Energy Groove