NASA Uses ‘Sonification’ To Convert A Picture Of Nearby Galaxies Into Music

Watching Interstellar and Gravity may have made us believe that space is very quiet. However, NASA scientists have just discovered that the stars held secret melodies all along!

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NASA ‘sonified’ a photograph shot by the Hubble Space Telescope. Yes, folks, these geniuses have just succeeded in making music from the distance between stars.

Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys first used a Wide-Field Camera 3 in August 2018 to take the picture.  Quite a mesmerising image, they dubbed it the ‘The Galactic treasure chest.’ It essentially depicts “spiral arms swirl in all colours and orientations, and fuzzy ellipticals can be seen speckled across the frame as softly glowing smudges on the sky,” reports News18.

Curious? Here’s what it actually looks like-

Image source

For the record, every tiny speck is a galaxy housing millions of stars. The ones that shine brightest are merely the ones closest to us. You may also notice a vast galaxy cluster right in the centre of the picture. “An immense collection of maybe thousands of galaxies, all held together by the relentless force of gravity,” NASA said of the image.

While the picture charms us all, the music does far more. NASA posted their musical rendition to Youtube-

Wondering how ‘sonification’ works?

NASA explained how the image was transformed into music. Apparently, stars and compact galaxies are represented by short and clear sounds. On the other hand, spiraling galaxies emit more complex, longer notes.

“Time flows left to right, and the frequency of sound changes from bottom to top, ranging from 30 to 1,000 hertz. Objects near the bottom of the image produce lower notes, while those near the top produce higher ones. The higher density of galaxies near the centre of the image results in a swell of mid-range tones halfway through the video,” said the team at NASA.

While the music wasn’t organically recorded, a computer generated it by simply reading it left to right. For example, the higher a star is placed in the image, the higher it’s pitch. At the same time, the larger it is, the louder the pitch of the star. The music interprets the white line going from left to right. The sound plays as it goes over a star.

Even though the sound takes a little getting used to, sonification is ultimately a wonderful way to listen to the stars. The melody is especially enchanting in the middle, as it reaches the galaxy cluster RXC J0142.9+4438. Now, you can literally hear the music from the stars.

Brilliant isn’t it?