The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently shared a clip on its Instagram account featuring mesmerising musical notes that were created by astronomical data collected from outer space. NASA captioned the clip: “It’s not over till the Cat's Eye nebula sings.” For the uninitiated, Cat’s Eye Nebula is a nickname for the planetary nebulae NGC 6543.
The clip is part of a project using data collected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. These results from outer space have been converted into sound format — sonification — which helps people to hear the data instead of just visualising it. The original format of the content remains intact.
Further explaining the clip, NASA states in the post: “What you’re looking at: When a star like the Sun begins to run out of helium to burn, it will blow off huge clouds of gas and dust. These outbursts can form spectacular structures such as the one seen in the Cat's Eye nebula. This image of the Cat's Eye contains both X-rays from Chandra around the center and visible light data from the @NASAHubble, which show the series of bubbles expelled by the star over time.”
The post had garnered over 26 lakh views.
Finally, NASA also explains how the sound was produced: “Light that is further from the center is heard as higher pitches while brighter light is louder. The X-rays are represented by a harsher sound, while the visible light data sound smoother,” reads the post.
Apart from Cat’s Eye Nebula, other objects to have their data converted into sounds include Whirlpool Galaxy and Chandra Deep Field South.
According to NASA, the Chandra Deep Field South image was the deepest ever taken in X-rays, representing over seven million seconds of Chandra observing time. As the observed field is in the southern hemisphere, it’s called ‘Chandra Deep Field South’. In the Messier 51 (M51) galaxy, nicknamed Whirlpool Galaxy, clip the sonification moves in a clockwise direction.