Owing to advancement in space technologies, we have often seen images of the celestial bodies in outer space captured by sophisticated satellites and telescopes.
But for the first time, astronomers have devised a new data sonification technique which enables one to “hear” those objects scattered in the universe. NASA has recently released a clip in which an image of space captured by its Hubble Space Telescope has been transformed into sound.
“Hubble brings us cosmic sights, but these astronomical marvels can be experienced with other senses as well. Through data sonification, the same digital data that gets translated into images is transformed into sound,” read the tweet by the official account of NASA Hubble.
To be clear, there is no sound in space as there is no medium for it to propagate. However, the new project uses sonification to turn astronomical images from various telescopes into sound. This is done by assigning sounds – pitches and volumes – to the various celestial objects captured in an image based on their brightness and position.
“Objects near the bottom of the image produce lower notes, while those near the top produce higher ones. Stars and compact galaxies create short, clear tones, while sprawling galaxies emit longer notes that change pitch. The higher density of galaxies near the center of the image results in a swell of mid-range tones halfway through the video,” said NASA in a recent release.
Hubble brings us stunning cosmic sights, but images can be experienced with other senses as well! Though there’s no sound in space, assigning pitches to stars & galaxies in this image provides a new way to conceptualize its data.More sonifications here: https://t.co/tO2RGwRGck pic.twitter.com/NTw9akuc10
— Hubble (@NASAHubble) October 9, 2020
The sonification provides a new way to allow the audience, including blind and visually impaired communities, to experience or “listen” to the astronomical images.
The immense gravitational force created by massive clusters of galaxies often distorts and magnifies images of objects behind them, a process called gravitational lensing. The new technique will also help scientists overcome this and allow them glimpses of distant galaxies that would otherwise not be visible.
Sound of the Milky Way
The Chandra X-ray Observatory team have combined their observations with those from the Hubble and the Spitzer Space Telescope to render sound to the various interstellar objects including the Milky Way, Cassiopeia A constellation and “Pillars of Creation”.
The center of the Milky Way galaxy has a massive black hole at the centre and is surrounded by a dense nest of stars and clouds. The data sonification technique brings a new way of experiencing it. Through the technique, Milky Way sounds like an ensemble of musical instruments like piano and santoor.