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How new information about the Universe is being revealed by Sound

In astronomy, the use of sound rather than light is lowering barriers to participation and revealing information about the Universe


Information is overwhelming astronomers. Artificial eyes from Earth look out in all directions from the ground and from orbit. The world’s telescopes examine billions of stars. Compared to the human eye’s ability to distinguish only the 5,000 brightest stars in the sky. Other telescopes find gravitational waves, pulsars, quasars and exoplanets. Black hole accretion discs, and indirect evidence of dark matter and dark energy.

Spectacular photos that appear in astronomy journals and websites are frequently produced using this plethora of observational data. But many astronomers are now also examining it through the use of sound. They enhance their intuitive understanding of the invisible universe by “data sonifying,” or turning numbers into audible tones, chirps, and hums.

Italian Astronomer

According to Anita Zanella, an astronomer at Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics, “some information is really difficult to visualise. Zanella researches the genesis and structure of galaxies. More variables and factors are frequently correlated in her research than a data visualisation can handle. “Having an image and adding sound is one thing we can do. You first “listen” to a galaxy’s brightness or velocity after recognising its shape. This would enable us to understand it better. Scientists can employ timbre, volume, pitch, spatialization, and other sound properties to expand the parameter space. Much as they do when representing different sorts of data graphically using colour, shape, and size.

Although we can’t hear the sound directly, we can arbitrary correlate sounds with data. After all, we use visuals for that purpose,” Zanella explains.

Research and Knowledge

Information sonification not only expands research and knowledge-creation opportunities. But it also provides new entrance points into professional and amateur astronomy. For those who are visually impaired as well as those who understand sounds more readily than images. According to Nic Bonne, a visually impaired astronomer at the University of Portsmouth in the UK. people to rely solely on one sense is unjust. Bonne, who was born with retinal impairment. Grew up in a rural area of Australia and loved to listen to his family describe the night sky. First his hobby, then his profession, was astronomy.

People often consider astronomy to be a visual discipline, but that isn’t always the case, he claims. “The majority of the universe is invisible to the human eye; we observe X-ray, radio, or ultraviolet energy. Data sonification can help those who are blind or visually handicapped gain access. Making something sound makes sense in some situations. Sometimes it’s more effective to listen for a pattern than to hunt for one.


The attached audio file has been listened to more than 17 million times since NASA tweeted in August about the sound of the black hole at the nucleus of the Perseus galaxy cluster. Arcand and others turned some of the initial James Webb Space Telescope photos into sound in the same month. The intensity and hues of light in the attention-grabbing images were mapped into audio under the direction of blind and visually impaired people.

These maps are based on precise technical information. For example, in the sonification of an image of gas and dust in a far-off nebula, strong light towards the top of the image is represented by loud high-frequency sounds, whereas bright light near the centre of the image is represented by loud lower-frequency noises. The sonification of a black hole converts information about sound waves moving across space, which are produced when a black hole collides with the heated gas around it, into audible frequencies.


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