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Data Sonification

Data Sonification


NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Center (CXC) has unveiled a new ‘sonification’ project that transforms data from astronomical images into audio.

Data sonification:

  • It refers to the use of sound values to represent real data. It is the auditory version of data visualization.
  • In NASA’s recent Chandra project data is represented using a number of musical notes. With this data sonification project, users can now experience different phenomena captured in astronomical images as an aural experience.
    • The birth of a star, a cloud of dust, or even a black hole can now be ‘heard’ as a high or low pitched sound.


  • Users can now listen to images of the Galactic Centre, the remains of a supernova called Cassiopeia A, as well as the Pillars of Creation Nebula, which are all located in a region around 26,000 light-years away from Earth.
  • The data has been collected by NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, and Spitzer Space Telescope.

Process of images into sound translation:

  • Telescopes in space collect digital data in the form of ones and zeroes (binary), before converting them into images.
  • The images are visual representations of light and radiation of different wavelengths in space, that can’t be seen by the human eye.
  • The Chandra project has created a celestial concert by translating the same data into sound. Pitch and volume are used to denote the brightness and position of a celestial object or phenomenon.
    • Pitch is related to the frequency of sound waves. Changing the number of vibrations per second changes the pitch.
    • Volume, or loudness, is related to the strength, intensity, pressure, or power of the sound. Bigger/amplified vibrations result in bigger/louder sounds.
  • Project Chandra has released three examples - the Galactic Centre, Cassiopeia A, and Pillars of Creation Nebula.

The Galactic Centre:

  • It is the rotational center of the Milky Way galaxy.
  • It comprises a collection of celestial objects like Neutron, white dwarf stars, clouds of dust and gas.
  • A supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A*(weighs four million times the mass of the sun).

Cassiopeia A:

  • Located around 11,000 light-years away from Earth in the northern Cassiopeia constellation.
  • Cassiopeia A is a well-known remnant of a once-massive star that was destroyed by a supernova explosion around 325 years ago.

Pillars of Creation Nebula:

  • It is located in the center of the Eagle Nebula (it is a constellation of stars), which is also known as Messier 16.

Significance of sonification project:

  • The sonification project was led by the Chandra X-ray Center in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning Program.
  • The project aims to incorporate NASA science content into the learning environment effectively and efficiently for learners of all ages. 
  • NASA has been working towards making data about space accessible for a larger audience. Chandra, sonification projects like this allow audiences including visually-impaired communities to experience space through data.

Source: Indian Express