The universe is a wonderful place, full of dynamically evolving objects and a lot of unsolved mysteries. However, there is one thing that space doesn’t have and that is sound. Despite the vast numbers of planets and objects, the universe is not loud at all. Without air molecules like those we have on Earth, sound can’t travel. So, in space, there will only be silence. However, that didn’t stop NASA from figuring out a way to produce sound from the silence by “sonifying” an image that was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. It’s a whole new way of viewing the universe so move over podcasts and audiobooks, there’s a new thing to listen to and they are the images from our very own Hubble telescope.
A Silent Universe
Our universe is a cosmic system of matter and energy of which Earth is a part. Humanity has traveled a long road since societies imagined Earth, the Sun, and the Moon as the main objects of creation, with the rest of the universe being thought of later. The Hubble telescope has given us a whole new glimpse into what awaits us in the stars. The image NASA used for this project was taken by the Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide-Field Camera in August of last year.
The Hubble team calls the image a “galactic treasure chest” because of the number of galaxies it shows. NASA explains that “each visible speck of a galaxy is home to countless stars. A few stars closer to home shine brightly in the foreground, while a massive galaxy cluster nestles at the very center of the image; an immense collection of maybe thousands of galaxies, all held together by the relentless force of gravity.” However, this beautiful image has reached a whole new level after NASA transformed it into an eerie musical composition.
How Does It Work?
Many people may look at this whole process and see it as impossible to accomplish so how did NASA accomplish the impossible? The team that created the sonified image explains that the different locations and elements of the image produce different sounds. Stars and compact galaxies are represented by short clear sounds while the spiraling galaxies emit more complex, longer notes. NASA explained that “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.” In other words, the sound you hear is not recorded. It is created by a computer and simply reads from left to right. The higher a star is on the picture, the higher the pitch gets. The larger the size of the star, the louder the pitch. A note is played when the white line goes over a star.
Hearing Our Universe
Although it might sound a little strange at first, the sounds created from the picture when put together produce a beautiful melody. The team’s favorite part is near the middle when the sound reaches a galaxy cluster called RXC J0142.9+4438 by stating that “the higher density of galaxies near the center of the image results in a swell of mid-range tones halfway through the video.”
NASA believes that this new process of creating music from images can be a whole new way of seeing our universe. There may also be a chance of using this process for other images in the future. Many people believe that they can hear music when they look at the stars, that the stars create their own silent melody. However, thanks to the team from NASA, this hidden melody will no longer be silent.