If you’ve ever wondered what space sounds like, NASA has you covered.
The space agency has posted several videos of how two supernovae and a colliding galaxy cluster ‘sound’, thanks to its ‘data sonification’ program.
The Bullet Cluster, a galaxy cluster 3.7 billion light-years from Earth that provided the first evidence of dark matter, can be seen in this video through gravitational lenses.
“In converting this to sound, the data panned from left to right, and each layer of data was limited to a specific frequency range,” NASA wrote on its website. “Data showing dark matter is represented by the lowest frequencies, while X-rays are assigned to the highest frequencies. The galaxies in the image revealed by Hubble data, many of which are in the cluster, are at mid-frequencies. Then the pitch is set within each layer to increase from the bottom of the image to the top, so that objects upward produce higher tones. “
The Chandra X-ray Observatory, which has been looking at distant galaxies for nearly a generation, helped produce this video of the Crab Nebula, first discovered in AD 1054.
NASA added that the nebula’s “persistent engine” can be seen with modern telescopes. The nebula’s rotation and its strong magnetic field, which generates “rays of matter and antimatter that flow away from its poles,” were translated into different wavelengths, each combined with a different family of instruments.
“X-rays from Chandra (blue and white) are from copper, optical light data from Hubble (purple) is strings, and infrared data from Spitzer (pink) is heard in the woodwind instruments,” added NASA. “In any case, light received at the top of the image is played when higher pitch notes and brighter light are played louder.”
The third video shows the visualization of a supernova explosion known as Supernova 1987A, discovered in 1987.
Supernova 1987A, which is about 168,000 light-years from Earth, “was one of the brightest supernova explosions in centuries,” explained NASA on its website.
The time-lapse video shows observations made between 1999 and 2013, with the Chandra X-ray Observatory indicated by the blue and the Hubble indicated in orange and red.
“This shows that a dense ring of gas that was ejected from the star before it went into supernova, starts to glow brighter as the supernova shock wave passes through it,” NASA continued. “As the focus moves around the image, the data is converted into the sound of a crystal singing bowl, with brighter light heard as higher and louder tones. The optical data is converted to a higher range of notes than the X-ray data so that both wavelengths of light can be heard simultaneously. With an interactive version, the user can play this astronomical instrument himself. “