When we think of objects in space, such as galaxies and black holes, our only frame of reference is the images we have seen, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and similar instruments. Thanks to NASA̵
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory interprets the telescope data and converts it into audio. So far, three cosmic entities have been transformed into wondrous soundscapes: the Whirlpool Galaxy, the Chandra Deep Field and the Cat’s Eye Nebula.
The Chandra Deep Field South is the deepest X-ray image ever taken, representing more than seven million seconds of Chandra observation. The dots seen in the sonication video are galaxies or black holes (many of which are supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies). The colors determine the tones you hear, with red colors assigned as low tones and the more purple colors assigned higher tones. And, appropriately, white dots are heard as white noise. This particular image is read from bottom to top and you can follow it with the moving bar.
The Cat’s Eye Nebula is stunning in appearance and contains bursts of gas and dust from a star. This image contains both visible light and X-ray data. Light farther from the center is interpreted as higher tones, and brighter tones are louder. In addition, X-ray data emits a louder sound, while visible light data has a softer sound. This sonication video is more like a radar scan, moving clockwise from the center.
Finally, the Whirlpool Galaxy (aka Messier 51) is one of the most iconic astronomical images, thanks to its perpendicular orientation to our vantage point on Earth. This image was shown in small scale on tones and moves clockwise just like the Cat’s Eye Nebula scan. Each wavelength (X-ray, ultraviolet, infrared and optical) was assigned a different frequency range in the sonication video.
So grab your headphones and listen to each video individually. It is certainly a stunning way to explore our universe.