NASA has used sonification, the process of turning data into audio in order to perceive it in a new way, to reveal the ‘sounds’ of our universe. A video containing the generated audio was recently published by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. The data, in this case, comes from NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory and other telescopes that imaged the Milky Way in optical and infrared light in addition to observing X-rays.

NASA creates composite images of space using the data gathered by its observatories, providing the public with a visual look at things that are otherwise beyond the means of human perception. Sight represents only one way that humans can perceive data, however, with NASA pointing out that sonification makes it possible to experience the same data through hearing.

The space agency explains:

The center of our Milky Way galaxy is too distant for us to visit in person, but we can still explore it. Telescopes gives us a chance to see what the Galactic Center looks like in different types of light. By translating the inherently digital data (in the form ones and zeroes) captured by telescopes in space into images, astronomers create visual representations that would otherwise be invisible to us.

But what about experiencing these data in other senses like hearing? Sonification is the process that translates data into sound, and a new project brings the center of the Milky Way to listeners for the first time.

This project represents the first time data from the center of the Milky Way has been processed as audio, something that involves playing the ‘sounds’ of space from left to right for each image. In this case, NASA set the intensity of the light in the images as the volume control, while stars and other ‘compact sources’ are translated as individual notes. The space dust and gases are played as a fluctuating drone, and the vertical position of light controls the pitch.

NASA has provided multiple different versions of its sonification project, including solo tracks that provide audio for observations made by each source individually (Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra, etc.), plus there’s a version where all of the data is combined together to form an ensemble with each telescope source serving as a different instrument. Listeners can ultimately hear audio that translates data observed across a massive 400 light-years, according to the space agency.

‘Sound plays a valuable role in our understanding of the world and cosmos around us,’ NASA says, pointing out that the observations from each telescope represent different aspects of the galaxy around us. The image sourced from Hubble represents the energy in parts of the Milky Way where stars are forming, whereas the image from Spitzer provides data on the ‘complex structures’ within the galaxy’s dust clouds.

NASA has a website dedicated to sound produced from Chandra observation data called ‘A Universe of Sound.’ Additional audio tracks can be found on this website, including ones of various pulsars, star systems and notable celestial features like the ‘Pillars of Creation.’

Via: Laughing Squid

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