Data Sonification: A New Cosmic Triad of Sound

A new trio of examples of 'data sonification' from NASA missions provides a new method to enjoy an arrangement of cosmic objects

From NASA

Nov. 30, 2020

A new trio of examples of ‘data sonification’ from NASA missions provides a new method to enjoy an arrangement of cosmic objects. Data sonification translates information collected by various NASA missions — such as the Chandra X-ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, and Spitzer Space Telescope — into sounds. 

This image of the Bullet Cluster (officially known as 1E 0657-56) provided the first direct proof of dark matter, the mysterious unseen substance that makes up the vast majority of matter in the Universe. X-rays from Chandra (pink) show where the hot gas in two merging galaxy clusters has been wrenched away from dark matter, seen through a process known as “gravitational lensing” in data from Hubble (blue) and ground-based telescopes. In converting this into sound, the data pan left to right, and each layer of data was limited to a specific frequency range. Data showing dark matter are represented by the lowest frequencies, while X-rays are assigned to the highest frequencies. The galaxies in the image revealed by Hubble data, many of which are in the cluster, are in mid-range frequencies. Then, within each layer, the pitch is set to increase from the bottom of the image to the top so that objects towards the top produce higher tones.

This image of the Bullet Cluster (officially known as 1E 0657-56) provided the first direct proof of dark matter, the mysterious unseen substance that makes up the vast majority of matter in the Universe. X-rays from Chandra (pink) show where the hot gas in two merging galaxy clusters has been wrenched away from dark matter, seen through a process known as “gravitational lensing” in data from Hubble Space Telescope (blue) and ground-based telescopes. In converting this into sound, the data pan left to right, and each layer of data was limited to a specific frequency range. Data showing dark matter are represented by the lowest frequencies, while X-rays are assigned to the highest frequencies. The galaxies in the image revealed by Hubble data, many of which are in the cluster, are in mid-range frequencies. Then, within each layer, the pitch is set to increase from the bottom of the image to the top so that objects towards the top produce higher tones.Credits: NASA/CXC/SAO/K.Arcand, SYSTEM Sounds (M. Russo, A. Santaguida)

The Crab Nebula has been studied by people since it first appeared in Earth’s sky in 1054 A.D. Modern telescopes have captured its enduring engine powered by a quickly spinning neutron star that formed when a massive star collapsed. The combination of rapid rotation and a strong magnetic field generates jets of matter and anti-matter flowing away from its poles, and winds outward from its equator. For the translation of these data into sound, which also pans left to right, each wavelength of light has been paired with a different family of instruments. X-rays from Chandra (blue and white) are brass, optical light data from Hubble (purple) are strings, and infrared data from Spitzer (pink) can be heard in the woodwinds. In each case, light received towards the top of the image is played as higher pitched notes and brighter light is played louder. 

The Crab Nebula has been studied by people since it first appeared in Earth’s sky in 1054 A.D. Modern telescopes have captured its enduring engine powered by a quickly spinning neutron star that formed when a massive star collapsed. The combination of rapid rotation and a strong magnetic field generates jets of matter and anti-matter flowing away from its poles, and winds outward from its equator. For the translation of these data into sound, which also pans left to right, each wavelength of light has been paired with a different family of instruments. X-rays from Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue and white) are brass, optical light data from Hubble Space Telescope (purple) are strings, and infrared data from Spitzer (pink) can be heard in the woodwinds. In each case, light received towards the top of the image is played as higher pitched notes and brighter light is played louder.Credits: NASA/CXC/SAO/K.Arcand, SYSTEM Sounds (M. Russo, A. Santaguida)

On February 24, 1987, observers in the southern hemisphere saw a new object in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy to the Milky Way. This was one of the brightest supernova explosions in centuries and soon became known as Supernova 1987A (SN 87A). This time lapse shows a series of Chandra (blue) and Hubble (orange and red) observations taken between 1999 and 2013. This shows a dense ring of gas, which was ejected by the star before it went supernova, begins to glow brighter as the supernova shockwave passes through. As the focus sweeps around the image, the data are converted into the sound of a crystal singing bowl, with brighter light being heard as higher and louder notes. The optical data are converted to a higher range of notes than the X-ray data so both wavelengths of light can be heard simultaneously. An interactive version lets the user play this astronomical instrument for themselves.

On February 24, 1987, observers in the southern hemisphere saw a new object in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy to the Milky Way. This was one of the brightest supernova explosions in centuries and soon became known as Supernova 1987A (SN 87A). This time lapse shows a series of Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue) and Hubble Space Telescope (orange and red) observations taken between 1999 and 2013. This shows a dense ring of gas, which was ejected by the star before it went supernova, begins to glow brighter as the supernova shockwave passes through. As the focus sweeps around the image, the data are converted into the sound of a crystal singing bowl, with brighter light being heard as higher and louder notes. The optical data are converted to a higher range of notes than the X-ray data so both wavelengths of light can be heard simultaneously.Credits: NASA/CXC/SAO/K.Arcand, SYSTEM Sounds (M. Russo, A. Santaguida)

The data sonification project is led by the Chandra X-ray Center (CXC) as part of the NASA’s Universe of Learning (UoL) program. NASA’s Science Activation program strives to enable NASA science experts and to incorporate NASA science content into the learning environment effectively and efficiently for learners of all ages. The collaboration was driven by visualization scientist Kimberly Arcand (CXC), astrophysicist Matt Russo and musician Andrew Santaguida (both of the SYSTEMS Sound project.)

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center controls science from Cambridge Massachusetts and flight operations from Burlington, Massachusetts. NASA’s Universe of Learning materials are based upon work supported by NASA under cooperative agreement award number NNX16AC65A to the Space Telescope Science Institute, working in partnership with Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Sonoma State University.

Read more from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/chandra

0 0 votes
Article Rating
32 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Vuk
December 2, 2020 2:16 am

Sonification ? yuk.
Cosmic Sounds of Spheres

Vuk
Reply to  Vuk
December 2, 2020 11:24 am

Incandescent Sun
https://youtu.be/ddt5Y1hXfgI

bonbon
December 2, 2020 2:29 am

Interesting how NASA takes up the finance sector’s idea :

Using Sound to Identify Correlations in Market Data

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-12439-6_11

Remember these are the guys that crashed the entire financial system in 2008.

Now it is true audio, as in Beethoven’s music, can express ideas nowhere else expressible, and the well known effect of Synesthesia
Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway (for example, hearing) leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway (such as vision). Simply put, when one sense is activated, another unrelated sense is activated at the same time. This may, for instance, take the form of hearing music and simultaneously sensing the sound as swirls or patterns of color.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/synesthesia#:~:text=Synesthesia%20is%20a%20neurological%20condition,activated%20at%20the%20same%20time.

may be useful. The well known phenomenon of Eskimo’s definitely hearing the Aurora as a hiss, even when no microphone can register something from 110km altitude could be Synesthesia.

What NASA thinks it is doing, other than cinema, is a good question.

Maybe, like Greta “seeing CO2”, NASA can now “see Dark Matter”?

Sara
December 2, 2020 4:30 am

Cosmic music – fine by me. That is SO totally New Age stuff.

Doonman
Reply to  Sara
December 2, 2020 11:27 am

If you ignore Harmonices Mundi, the huge volume of cosmic music that the planets sing as they orbit. First determined and written by Johannes Kepler in 1619.

shrnfr
December 2, 2020 4:32 am

They did this with the Voyager data many years ago. It is most interesting to listen to. https://smile.amazon.com/Symphonies-Planets-NASA-Voyager-Recordings/dp/B000001VWG/ Hardly a new development.

D. J. Hawkins
December 2, 2020 6:01 am

Well, I enjoyed all the examples. Might be a way to raise the “cool factor” as far as the general public is concerned, and kids under 10 or so will find it interesting.

Steve Case
December 2, 2020 6:12 am

Laminar Sonification of Data LSD

Bryan A
Reply to  Steve Case
December 2, 2020 6:46 am

Astronomy has finally reached the Trippy Point

Steve Case
Reply to  Bryan A
December 2, 2020 7:04 am

Maybe I should have gone with the obvious:

Lysergic Sonification of Data

bonbon
Reply to  Steve Case
December 3, 2020 12:54 am

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds :
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BPM_37093

Leland Laird
December 2, 2020 7:36 am

Brian Eno has been doing that for forty years.:)

Alan in Kansas
December 2, 2020 8:05 am

Note: Bullet Cluster and Crab Nebula Sonification graphics both scroll from left to right. A glaring example of “Western, White Privilege”!  Arabic writing scrolls from right to left, and classical Chinese scrolls from top to bottom.

The scale chosen was the diatonic major scale (a White, Western construct, indeed Greek). In fact the Bullet Cluster Sonification uses only C MAJOR scale tones! How White is that!!

Note: Apparently nobody thought of using the Blues scale to illustrate these cosmic events.  “Black Scales don’t Matter”. Another example of “White Privilege”. I’m pretty sure these technicians are woke folks, so I guess this was unconscious bias.

(Sorry, there is no sarc. button on my keyboard.)

December 2, 2020 8:07 am

GALAXY CYGNUS A is an interpretation and composition to the “noises” of the radiogalaxy of the same name in the sign of the zodiac swan. The white noises of these 1.05 milliard light years distant radio-galaxy was received with the worldwide biggest movable radio telescope (Effelsberg / Eifel /FRG) and was taped. For Schroeder this was the first project abroad.

Galaxie Cygnus-A by Robert Schröder
I’m happy to own the LP since it’s release

Reply to  Krishna Gans
December 2, 2020 8:12 am

Unfortunately, the embedding of youtube didn’t show up

beng135
December 2, 2020 8:16 am

Wow, man. That spaces me out….

ht/ Tommy Chong

noaaprogrammer
Reply to  beng135
December 2, 2020 8:23 pm

It’s out of this world!

Tom in Florida
December 2, 2020 8:43 am

I still prefer “Keep Me Hanging On”, the long Vanilla Fudge version.
All speakers on max volume please:

2hotel9
Reply to  Tom in Florida
December 2, 2020 12:00 pm

Radio and long versions both come up in my Pandora feed fairly regularly. An excellent showcase of the Hammond B3.

Bruce Cobb
December 2, 2020 9:15 am

Darn. I was hoping for something more along the lines of John Williams’ theme music for Close Encounters:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQJadmOaHvE

Oh well.

Richard Lambert
December 2, 2020 9:20 am

A waste of taxpayer’s money.

William Schroeder
December 2, 2020 9:29 am

Glad to see NASA is spending our money wisely.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  William Schroeder
December 2, 2020 11:45 am

A step up from Islamic outreach, though.

December 2, 2020 9:51 am

https://youtu.be/ToXaNUjNfS4

Sounds from the Space…?? Is it?
Source

December 2, 2020 10:02 am

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xr3xq8
Solar Music – Grobschnitt live – 1978

eyesonu
December 2, 2020 12:44 pm

Someone notify Pink Floyd. The can use it in their next album. Maybe call it the Dark side of the Universe.

Reply to  eyesonu
December 2, 2020 2:38 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uj8IIzbrv8

They published it earlier, 1970
Astronomy Domine

eyesonu
Reply to  Krishna Gans
December 2, 2020 9:09 pm

Thanks Krishna,

Noted on the link in 1970 they were just getting started. I saw them live in 1972 in an auditorium and they were rocking! They paved their on way with originality. “Pulse” is a good listen. I believe it’s a 4 CD set. Will be playing it while driving over the next few days!

Reply to  eyesonu
December 3, 2020 1:54 am

I’m happy to still have my old Pink Floyd early vinyl records + some newer CDs and DVD.
Pink Floyd were groundbreaking for their times. I always enjoy to listen their records.

beng135
December 3, 2020 6:15 am

For info, the Arecibo radio dish in Puerto Rico did indeed collapse:
https://www.universetoday.com/149029/the-arecibo-observatory-platform-has-collapsed/

Bill Parsons
December 3, 2020 8:33 am

“In converting this into sound, the data pan left to right, and each layer of data was limited to a specific frequency range.”

Bach scanned it right to left and upside down.

Cosmic fugue.

%d bloggers like this: