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NASA Released New video of Cosmic Sound Using Technique known as Data Sonification

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

NASA used a technique known as Data Sonification to translate information collected by various NASA missions from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, and Spitzer Space Telescope into sounds.


The Bullet Cluster (1E 0657-56), 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. 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


Another one is Crab Nebulae, the 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 a brighter light is played louder.

On February 24, 1987, observers in the southern hemisphere saw a new object in the Large Magellanic Cloud and there 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 a 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.



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