NASA’s Sonification Project

  • While telescopes offer glimpses of outer space by translating digital data into stunning images,
    • NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Center (CXC) has gone a step further by unveiling a new ‘sonification’ project that transforms data from astronomical images into audio.
  • Users can now ‘listen’ to images of the Galactic Centre, the remains of a supernova called Cassiopeia A, as well as the Pillars of Creation Nebula, which are all located in a region around 26,000 light years away from Earth.
  • The data has been collected by NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope — each of which is represented by a different musical ‘instrument’.

       What is data sonification?

  • Data sonification refers to the use of sound values to represent real data.
  • Simply put, it is the auditory version of data visualisation.
  • In NASA’s recent Chandra project, for instance, data is represented using a number of musical notes.
  • With this data sonification project, users can now experience different phenomena captured in astronomical images as an aural experience.
  • The birth of a star, a cloud of dust or even a black hole can now be ‘heard’ as a high or low pitched sound.

       Why is this sonification project useful?

  • The sonification project was led by the Chandra X-ray Center in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning Program (UoL), which aims to “incorporate NASA science content into the learning environment effectively and efficiently for learners of all ages”.
  • It allow audiences — including visually-impaired communities — to experience space through data.