Data sonification

Data sonification is the presentation of data as sound using the process of sonification, which involves the use of non-speech audio to convey information. It is simply a process of producing sounds through directing digital media data through a synthesizer into a digital to analog converter.

Data Sonification by NASA

  • Under the new “data sonification” program at NASA, some phenomena in the universe are converted to sound played by instruments.
  • For the past 20 years, the Chandra X-ray center of NASA has been imaging distant galaxies with its Chandra X-ray observatory.
  • As a part of their new initiative, the researchers at the observatory have chosen three famous images and translated different frequencies of light into different pitches of sound.
  • The crab nebula, the Bullet Cluster, and the supernova explosion called Supernova 1987A is the three images tried by the researchers.
  • The crab Nebula is a supernova remnant powered by a windy neutron star. Bullet Cluster is the collision of two clusters of galaxies around 3.7 billion light-years from Earth.
  • NASA released three videos of the images through which people can experience the sounds.

Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO)

It is a space telescope that was launched aboard by the Space Shuttle Columbia in the year 1999. The telescope was named after the Indian astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar who was also a Nobel Prize winner. The telescope is 100 times more sensitive to X-rays than any previous telescope. It is a part of NASA’s Great Observatories program along with Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, and Spitzer Space Telescope.

At present, only the Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope are operating.

Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO)

The Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) was launched in the year 1991.  It observed gamma rays, and also extended into hard x-rays. It was de-orbited in the year 2000.

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

It was launched in the year 1990 and observes visible light and near-ultraviolet radiation. In 1997 capability to observe near-infrared range was also added to the telescope.

Spitzer Space Telescope

It was launched in the year 2003 and observed the infrared spectrum. It has been removed from service on 30th January 2020.

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