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Jingle, Pluck, and Hum: Sounds from Space almost like Sounds from Musical Instruments


Published on: September 30, 2021,

As per Hinduism Om is the sound of our universe. This sound is associated with religious qualities and spiritual phenomenons. Other than this space is mostly quiet. A “sonification” project led by NASA’s Chandra X ray observatory and NASA’s Universe of Learning program has transformed inaudible data from some of the world’s most powerful telescope’s into sound. With this effort it is possible to experience data associated with hearing.


As per their latest project three parts are featured. The first is Westerlund 2 where stars are forming, Tycho’s supernova remnant which is the debris field left behind by an exploded star and the region around black hole Messier 87. With sonification it is possible to translate astronomical data into sounds that humans can hear.


Westerlund 2:


This is a cluster of young stars which are about one to two million old. It is located about 20,000 light years from earth. In the sonified version sound sweep from left to right across the field of view with brighter light producing louder sound. The pitch of the notes indicates vertical position of the sources in the image with the higher pitches towards the top of the image. The hubble data is played by strings and it is represented by bells i.e jingle.




Beginning in the center, the Tycho supernova expands outward in a circle. The image contains X-data from Chandra where various color represents small bands of frequency that are associated with different elements that are moving toward and away from earth. For example red shows iron, green is silicon and blue represents sulfur. The sonification aligns red produces lower notes and blue and violet produce high pitched notes. The different proportions of iron, silicon and sulfur can be heard in changing amounts of low, mid and high frequency peaks in the sound. The fields of stars is observed by Hubble as notes on harp with pitch determined by their color.




This is giant black hole in Messier 87 and its surrounding have been studied for many years. As per data black hole in M87 is sending out massive jets of energetic particles that interact with vast clouds of hot gas that surround it. Translating X rays into sound the image is scanned beginning at 3’o clock and sweeping like a radar. Light from the center in heard as higher pitched and radio data are lower pithed than X rays. The point like sources which represents stars in orbit a black hole or neutron star are plucked sounds i.e sound like hum.


The dats sonificaton project is led by Chandra X ray Center with NASA’s Universe of Learning program. This program strives to enable NASA science experts and to incorporate NASA science into learning environment effectively and efficiently for all aged learners. The collaboration was driven by visualization scientist Dr. Kimberly Arcand (CXC) and astrophysicist Dr. Matt Russo with musician Andrew Santaguida.



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