Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Carina Nebula's Cosmic Cliffs: Webb Telescope Data Translated to Sound | NASA

The Carina Nebula's Cosmic Cliffs: Webb Telescope Data Translated to Sound | NASA

Experience the first full-color images and data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope in a brand new way. This data sonification maps a near-infrared image of the Cosmic Cliffs in the Carina Nebula, captured by NASA’s Webb Telescope, to a symphony of sounds. Musicians assigned unique notes to the semi-transparent, gauzy regions and very dense areas of gas and dust in the nebula, culminating in a buzzing soundscape. 

Sonifications support blind and low-vision listeners first, but are designed to be captivating to anyone who tunes in. This sonification, which scans the image from left to right, was adapted to a video to allow sighted viewers to watch as a vertical line moves across the frame.

The soundtrack is vibrant and full, representing the detail in this gigantic, gaseous cavity that has the appearance of a mountain range. The Carina Nebula is a large cloud of gas and dust where stars are forming or have already formed.

The gas and dust in the top half of the image are represented in blue hues and windy, drone-like sounds. The bottom half of the image, represented in ruddy shades of orange and red, has a clearer, more melodic composition.

Brighter light in the image is louder. The vertical position of light also dictates the frequency of sound. For example, bright light near the top of the image sounds loud and high, but bright light near the middle is loud and lower pitched. Dimmer, dust-obscured areas that appear lower in the image are represented by lower frequencies and clearer, undistorted notes.

This sonification does not represent sounds recorded in space. Two musicians mapped the telescope’s data to sound, carefully composing music to accurately represent details the team would like listeners to focus on. In a way, this sonification is like modern dance or an impressionist painting—it converts Webb’s image to a new medium to engage and inspire listeners. 

Learn more:

Also listen to:

1. The top of the image:

2. The lower half of the image:

3. Just the stars:

Credits: Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI; Accessibility Production: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, and Kimberly Arcand (CXC/SAO), Matt Russo and Andrew Santaguida (SYSTEM Sounds), Quyen Hart (STScI), Claire Blome (STScI), and Christine Malec (consultant).

Duration: 30 seconds

Release Date: August 31, 2022

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