Sounds of the Universe: Making Music From the Supernova Cassiopeia A

By Smriti Rao | February 5, 2010 1:02 pm

cassWhile we know what it looks like when a star explodes into a luminous supernova, here’s a chance to discover what one sounds like–sorta. Scientists have translates a supernova’s electromagnetic waves into waves of sound; and when there is sound, there is music. Enter the Grateful Dead.

The band’s famed percussionist Mickey Hart is working on a musical project to “sonify” the universe–taking sounds collected by scientists from supernovae and other astronomical phenomena and using them in his new album “Rhythms of the Universe.” To anyone who has ever heard one of the Grateful Dead’s extended “drums and space” jams, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

Keith Jackson, a computer scientist and musician who works at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, collaborated with Hart on this project, collecting data from the supernova Cassiopeia A. He converted this high-frequency electromagnetic wave data into lower-frequency sound waves that are within the range of human hearing. Hart took these sounds and used them to create music that was presented during the Cosmology at the Beach Conference held recently in Mexico.

For Jackson, Science Daily reports, the opportunity to turn data from supernovae into something Mickey Hart could use in an album was the best of both worlds.

“It brings together my love of science, my love of music, and my love of the Grateful Dead. What more could you ask for in life?”

Here’s a sample of what a supernova sounds like.

And here is what the rings of Saturn, recorded in a separate project, sound like.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Carl Sagan Sings Again: Symphony of Science, Part 4
Discoblog: Strummin’ the Moon With Your Program
80beats: Detoured Light From Tycho’s Supernova Finally Makes it to Earth
80beats: The First Stars Started Small, Grew Fast, and Died Young

Image: NASA

  • kathi w

    Ooooo, now I’m all goosebumpy! Yumm.

  • Stanley H. Tweedle

    Saturn’s rings sound very creepy! And are you sure that’s from Cassini?

  • Lonely flower

    This sound is scary!

  • dubstep

    Ooooo, now I’m all goosebumpy! Yumm.


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