Using a technique called sonification, NASA has generated two new pieces of music based on data from notable celestial destinations: the Bullet Cluster and the Crab Nebula. As with previous sonification projects, these two videos present the data in an entirely new way, enabling the public to not only see the two regions, but also hear them as a form of music.
Sonification, put simply, is a technique that involves taking data, assigning sounds to different parts of the data, and then generating a piece of audio that makes it possible to listen to the data. NASA typically releases its space observations as images, and for good reason — humans are visual creatures, after all.
But sonification provides a unique opportunity to experience this data in a new way: by listening to it like music. We’ve seen a few examples of these sonification pieces from NASA this year, the latest featuring the Bullet Cluster of colliding galaxies, as well as the Crab Nebula. Each has produced a unique piece of music, one high and twinkling, the other dramatic and moody.
The Bullet Cluster is notable for having provided the first direct proof of dark matter, according to NASA, while the Crab Nebula has fascinated humans for centuries. The space agency used data acquired by its Chanda X-ray Observatory, as well as the Spitzer Space Telescope and Hubble, to generate the audio.
If you enjoy this kind of work, you can find additional sonification pieces from NASA through the Universe of Sound website. Many notable space destinations have been transformed into music, including a black hole, the Pillars of Creation, the galactic center, Cassiopeia A, and more.