Space has an 'animalistic' sound according to artist in residence

Dec 20, 2013
Trajectory. Credit: Andrew Williams

University of Leicester Leverhulme Scholar provides unique insight into the sounds of space

A new project led by a Leverhulme Artist in Residence at the University of Leicester, has revealed the 'animalistic' sounds in the dark, cold vacuum of and the boiling mass of the sun.

We often think of the vast outer space as being as quiet as it is empty, but it does in fact, have the capacity to be as noisy as anywhere on Earth. It also sounds surprisingly Earth-like according to new recordings generated by multimedia composer and Leverhulme Artist in Residence at the University's Space Centre, Andrew Williams.

Using data collected from satellites and long-wave radios, Andrew has revealed the similarities of sound created by electrons hitting the of Earth to a dawn chorus of birds while the low hum of plasma passing through the sun creates a pulsing rhythm reflecting the heartbeat of the solar system.

Andrew explained: "I was quite shocked at how similar electrons hitting the Earth's atmosphere sound to bird song. Collectively, it is surprising to hear that space has an almost animalistic quality to its sounds which I have been quite struck by.

Trajectory. Credit: Andrew Williams

"By transposing sounds recorded by satellites into the audible range, I have been able to present the data as audio, providing a glimpse of what space would sound like if we were there and if the sounds generated were in our audible range."

The sound for the project was gathered from two main sources:

  • Electrons hitting the Earth's upper atmosphere – recorded using Long Wave Radio by Cluster II satellite on 9 July 2001. This data has been used to create a new audio composition entitled Chorus which reveals the brief, rising-frequency tones caused by the impacts of electrons, and sounds like a chorus of birds singing
  • Plasma passing through the sun – a deep pulsing sound recorded by the European Space Agency Soho spacecraft caused by bubbles emanating from deep within the star
Trajectory. Credit: Andrew Williams

Andrew, who became one of the University's Artists in Residence in 2012, has been exploring new ways of presenting and explaining scientific research to the public and presented the 'animalistic' qualities of space last month in an exhibition entitled Trajectory at Embrace Arts, the University of Leicester's arts centre. His work uses visual, audio and digital media to produce striking new compositions and interactive installations.

Andrew added: "People have reacted to these recordings in very different ways. There have been quite a few people who have been happy to just sit and absorb the sounds and a glimpse into a part of space they would not normally have access to."

Explore further: New Horizons sees more detail as it draws closer to Pluto

More information: You can listen to Andrew's recording via this podcast:

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User comments : 2

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not rated yet Dec 20, 2013
This is hardly the first attempt to capture radio waves from space, speed them up and shift their frequencies, and produce audible sound waves from it. Hell, SETI has been doing it for decades.

If there is a specific reason why this is newsworthy, I'd like to know what it is.

Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Dec 24, 2013
If there is a specific reason why this is newsworthy, I'd like to know what it is.

why is it NOT?
IMHO- i always thought that sometimes you need someone from outside...
someone not in the field can sometimes add insight to things that completely shift the paradigm. Some investigations benefit, while some dont. (thats my experience anyway)

there is always some good to be had by looking at something from another angle... and what better way than to let someone from outside take it
it may stimulate someone else into making a great discovery... you never know.

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