Enjoy the pleasant hum of galaxies and stars in space, the dates of which have been “set to music” in orchestral music.
Sound cannot propagate through space due to the lack of air as a medium. Instead, NASA used the same telescope data to create musical tones that are manifested in images, so now you can hear the beauty of outer space.
“The visualization team started with the scientific observations from the various telescopes, and then applied some of the same software that Hollywood uses in its feature films to the data,” says Frank Summers, a visualization scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland, said in a opinion.
A newly released 30-second video takes you through the five galaxies of Stephen’s Quintet in the constellation Pegasus, four of which are gravitationally bound together at about 290 million light years away, while the fifth is an innocent bystander some 39 million light-years away.
Related: Noises in Space: What Sounds Do Planets Make?
The new video can still be seen, except for a white horizontal line running through the galaxy group, revealing where the noise is coming from. Each of the five galaxies emits a loud whooshing noise while the foreground stars hum to the warm and mellow tones of a xylophone-like instrument called a glass marimba. The piece of music is also interspersed with higher notes from a stringed instrument depicting spikes around a star in telescopic images formed as starlight bends around NASA’s hexagonal mirrors James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
“Astronomy has always been very visual, but there’s no reason we need to represent the data that way alone,” said Kimberly Arcand, visualization scientist at the Chandra X-ray Center in Massachusetts opinion. “This kind of presentation takes the scholarly story of Stephan’s quintet – the deep, dense and beautiful dataset – and translates it into a listening experience.”
As part of an ongoing project to convert telescope data into audio experiences, NASA also released sonifications from two other celestial targets by combining agency data Chandra X-ray ObservatoryJWST, Hubble Space Telescopeand who are now retired Spitzer Space Telescope.
The piece of music on R Aquarii, the one binary star system from a somber one white dwarf and a pulsating red giant, about 650 light-years from Earth, whose volume increases in proportion to the brightness of the sources and their distance from the center.
At the two o’clock and eight o’clock positions, you can hear a strong wind reflecting a jet of ionized matter exiting the white dwarf and impacting surrounding stellar material. Hubble’s data, presented in the image as “ribbon-like arcs,” can be heard as soothing sounds similar to those emitted by Tibetan singing bowls, while Chandra’s data is presented as a “windy purr,” NASA officials wrote in one image description released on Tuesday (June 20).
The soundtrack of Messier 104 (or M104) — a giant galaxy in the Virgo Cluster some 28 million light-years away — is more like a whistle, rising in pitch and fading with the brightness of the sources.
Translating data into sounds can help people process the information in different ways and bring to light certain aspects of data that were previously unnoticed, scientists say. Such data sonifications make the beauty of the universe accessible to visually impaired space enthusiasts.
“Sonifications offer me a sensory way to experience the magnitude and power of astronomical phenomena,” said Christine Malec, who is a member of the blind and partially sighted community that supports NASA’s sonification project, in the same statement. “They are an invitation to blind and partially sighted people to listen, enjoy, and then delve deeper through reading to understand what exactly is being heard.”