A May 17, 2021 posting on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio Ideas programme blog describes and hosts embedded videos and audio clips of space data sonfications and visualizations,
After years of attempts and failures to get a microphone to Mars, NASA’s [US National Aeronautics and Space Administration] latest rover, Perseverance, succeeded. It landed in February carrying two microphones.
For Jason Achilles Mezilis, a musician and record producer who has also worked for NASA, listening to the haunting Martian wind was an emotional experience.
“I’m in this bar half drunk, and I go over to the corner and I listen to it on my cellphone and … I broke down.”
The atmosphere of Mars is a little thinner than Earth’s, but it still has enough air to transmit sound.
Ben Burtt, an Oscar-winning sound designer, editor and director, made the sounds of cinematic space fantasy — from Star Wars to WALL-E to Star Trek. But he’s also deeply interested in the sound of actual space reality.
“All sound is a form of wind, really. It’s a puff of air molecules moving. And when I heard the sound, I thought: ‘Well, you know, I’ve heard this many times in my headphones on recording trips,'” Burtt said
SYSTEM Sounds, founded by University of Toronto astrophysicist and musician Matt Russo, translates data from space into music.
Planets or moons sometimes fall into what’s called “orbital resonance,” where two or more bodies pull each other into a regular rhythm. One example is the three inner moons of Jupiter: Ganymede, Europa, and Io.
“The rhythm is very similar to what a drummer might play. There’s a very simple regularity,” Russo said.
“And there’s something about our ears and our auditory system that finds that pleasing, finds repeating rhythms with simple ratios between them pleasing or natural sounding. It’s predictable. So it gives you something to kind of latch on to emotionally.”
Russo created this tool to illustrate the musical rhythm of the Galilean moons.
During the pandemic, scientists at NASA, with the help of SYSTEM Sounds, tried to find new ways of connecting people with the beauty of space. The result was “sonic visualizations,” translating data captured by telescopes into sound instead of pictures.
Most images of space come from data translated into colours, such as Cassiopeia A, the remains of an exploded star.
A given colour is usually assigned to the electromagnetic signature of each chemical in the dust cloud. But instead of assigning a colour, a musical note can be assigned, allowing us to hear Cassiopeia A instead of just seeing it.
You will find a number of previous postings (use the search term ‘data sonification’); the earliest concerning ‘space music’ is from February 7, 2014. You’ll also find Matt Russo, the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system, and music in a May 11, 2017 posting.