Scientists turn cosmic particles into orchestral music,British scientists have created an amazing three-minute symphony that is out of this world by using cosmic particles detected on a 40-year space journey.
The real-life version of The Planets orchestral suite pays tribute to the 40th anniversary of NASA launching its Voyager 1 spacecraft’s mission into deep space.
Cambridge scientist Dr. Domenico Vicinanza and Dr. Genevieve Williams from the University of Exeter re-interpreted data from its onboard particle detector and transformed the data into musical notes.
Their eerie composition changes as the unmanned probe passes planets in our solar system just like English composer Gustav Holst’s wartime masterpiece.
The “sonification” becomes ethereal to correspond with the probe’s historic entry into interstellar space as it went past Pluto in 2012.
The pair released a snippet of their piece ahead of its world-premiere at the US space agency’s annual showcase event on November 14.
Vicinanza, 41, a senior officer at Géant – Europe’s high-speed data network that powers Cern and the Large Hadron Collider – said: “The music summarises in three minutes the journey of Voyager 1, from its launch to today, using data collected by one of the most fascinating instruments on board the spacecraft.”
“The music has been written and orchestrated mapping measurements and flight characteristics to melody, harmony and orchestration.”
“Every number is converted into a music note, creating a melody that follows the entire journey of the spacecraft as seen by its detector.”
“Listening to the music makes me feel peaceful and optimistic, makes
me wanting to contemplate the vast space that surrounds us as something
we are in harmony with.”
The music reflects changes in numbers of protons, alpha particles, and heavier nuclei in space identified by the Low-Energy Charged Particles (LECP) special telescope.
They looked at 100,000s of measurements for the “sonification” of the space journey which has gone further into space than any other probe launched by man.
The violins play a melody charting the “dramatic” changes in the total number of cosmic rays detected from Voyager’s 1977 launch till its passed Pluto on August 25, 2012.
A flute, piccolo and glockenspiel piano and French horns join in as the probe flies past Jupiter and Saturn “highlighting the rising and falling of the cosmic ray count entering and exiting the atmosphere of the giant planets”, said Vicinanza, who works at Anglia University.
The harp and celesta take over to make the tune “more ethereal harmony” when Voyager 1 leaves the Solar System and enters interstellar space.
The transition is also marked by a change in the music’s key from C major to E flat major.
“Finally, the spacing between the notes, the music intervals, the orchestration writing change as well, following the dramatic change in the density of charged particles,” said Vicinanza.
“We love telling stories and communicate complex scientific information with music. In our research we use music in many ways: from capturing nuances about human movement to provide remote therapies to analyzing superconducting magnets and spacecraft data!”
“Our sonification is based on the measurements coming from Voyager 1, mapping the number of particles that reached the detector to sound.
The higher the count, the higher the pitch. Every number from the detector became then a music note, creating a melody that followed the entire journey of the spacecraft.”
“The entire piece is breathing and pulsating with the spacecraft, an orchestra score that is more than just inspired by one of the most successful space mission, it becomes part of it.”
The twin Voyager 1 and 2 were launched in 1977 exploring where nothing from Earth has flown before and currently much farther away from Earth and the sun than Pluto.
The data is part of NASA’s Space Physics Data Facility at the Goddard Space Flight Centre.
The music was created for this year’s NASA@Supercomputing event and is due to be world-premiered in Denver, Colorado on November 14.