Sonification of RS Puppis

The holiday season is here, and all those good, old Christmas songs are probably already on your playlist. But why not spice it up with something new this year? Something you haven’t heard before, and it’s both festive as Jingle Bells, and a bit eerie like Carol of the Bells. Advertisements

I have just the song for you. NASA has released the sonification of the giant RS Puppis star, bringing together music and space photography in a festive piece of music made of stars. Literally. 

RS Puppis is a giant, glittering star located at about 6,500 light-years away from us. It’s 200 times larger than our Sun and wreathed with dust reflecting starlight, which rhythmically brightens and dims over a six-week cycle. Scientists turned a Hubble image of this star into music in a process called sonification. In layman’s terms, it’s turning visual data into audio. 

“In this sonification, scientists represent data in the image as sound for a new, festive way of experiencing RS Puppis,” NASA explains. The image itself looks a bit like a holiday wreath, so it’s festive all the way, for both eyes and ears. 

Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-Hubble/Europe Collab.
Acknowledgment: H. Bond (STScI and Pennsylvania State University)

“Pitch is assigned based on direction from the center; as the circle travels inward, points at the top of the circle are mapped to higher notes and points near the bottom are mapped to lower notes. Light toward the left is heard more in the left speaker and light toward the right is heard more in the right speaker. Additionally, brightness in the image is mapped to louder volume.” 

If you’ve made the holiday playlist, I think this sonification makes a perfect intro. And make sure to hear more of them here. They’re not as Christmassy, but they’re equally amazing. 

[via Digital Trends; Sonification credits: SYSTEM Sounds (M. Russo, A. Santaguida)]

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