Hear NASA turn stunning space photos into cosmic music (video)
NASA has released three new “musical pieces” based on astronomical observations of distant stars, black holes and galaxies by an X-ray telescope in space.
Based on NASA x-ray observations Chandra X-ray Space Telescope and other terrestrial and space telescopes, each of the new pieces reflects the distinct nature of each of the celestial objects. Scientists created them with a technique called sonication which translates observation data into sound.
The three new sonifications represent the surroundings of the famous black hole Messier 87 (famously photographed in 2017 by the international collaboration known as Event Horizon Telescope), a cluster of young stars barely one to two million years old and a dying supernova explosion.
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The Messier 87 sonication combines radiographic data from Chandra and radio observations from the Very large painting in New Mexico. Sonication scans the image like an hour hand moving clockwise from the 3 o’clock position. Radio data is lower than X-rays, reflecting their frequency ranges in the electromagnetic spectrum. As the hour hand moves through the massive jets of energetic particles emanating from the black hole and the vast clouds of hot gas inside the galaxy, the background noise changes in frequency and intensity. On top of that, short jingle sounds represent each individual star in the image.
The image of the remains of the Tycho supernova, located some 9,000 light years away in the constellation Cassiopeia, produces a very different composition of densely packed high-pitched jingles against a background of lower frequency hum. Sonication translates image data from the center of the supernova to its edges and beyond, producing an audible change as matter from the supernova disperses into the surrounding universe.
Each chemical element detected in the image is shown with a tone of a different tone that matches the colors in the image. Just like in the light spectrum, low frequency red colors produce a lower sound while blue produces a louder sound.
As the concentration of various elements changes, so does the sound. The surrounding star field, taken from a The Hubble Space Telescope image, is sonified by harp strokes, each representing an individual star. Again, the color of the stars matches the pitch.
The third sonication captures the Westerlund 2 cluster of very young stars. Only one to two million years old, the cluster, located about 20,000 light years from Earth, has been imaged in the optical spectrum by Hubble (the green and blue elements of the image). Chandra provided the purple x-ray component. The thick clouds of dust and gas forming stars in the cluster produce sound that varies in intensity depending on the brightness of the light in the image. The chord lines represent individual stars, with the pitch reflecting their position in the image.
The sonifications were created by visualization scientist Kimberly Arcand, of the Chandra X-ray Center, in collaboration with astrophysicist Matt Russo and musician Andrew Santaguida (of the Sonication Project SYSTEM Sounds).
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