2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
Next Monday marks 60 years since the first manned flight into space, and we already have a festive soundtrack. Yandex. Music has recorded a whole album of compositions based on astrophysical data. The fluctuations in the brightness of stars, the spectra of pulsars, the dynamics of solar activity became the source of inspiration and the basis on which these tracks were created. We tell about some of them, read (and listen).
Northern part of the supernova remnant in Sails
We at N + 1 have always been interested in sounds: the voices of whales and dolphins, the whistling of the Martian wind, the noises of submarines or the rattle of icebergs (for this we have a special topic: “Sound” and the “Sounds of Science” podcast series). In most cases, these sounds are inaccessible to the human ear as they are; their frequency has to be increased or decreased in order for them to “fall” into the audible range. And sometimes scientists turn into sound processes that have nothing to do with acoustic vibrations: for example, the data stream from the Large Hadron Collider or pulsar radio signals.
Such sonifications can be useful for data analysis, and it is also just interesting to see not just rows of numbers that reflect, for example, fluctuations in the speed of the solar wind, but to hear it “sounding” in headphones. But some go further, not only limiting themselves to the data set converted into sound, but turning it into music - they harmonize the original set, add melodies to make it more familiar to our ears.
Yandex. Music did just that: data on fluctuations in the brightness of stars, pulsar flares or the number of sunspots were converted into a set of notes, and then, using this raw track as a source of inspiration, they built a composition on it. Let's listen to some of them together.
The stellar journey, as expected, begins with the Sun. As explained to N + 1 music producer Timur Khaziev, a set of data on solar activity, more precisely on the number of spots, was taken as the basis for the "solar" track. “From the data on the average annual number of spots since 1961, the central melody of the climax was made, the same data controls the parameter of the synthesizer and creates the sound movement,” he explains.
The solar cycle: fluctuations in sunspot numbers since 1961
Solar cycle data taken from NOAA Space Weather Forecast Center. Listen to what happened in the end:
The next station on this voyage is the star Alpha Orion, the red supergiant Betelgeuse, located about 220 parsecs from Earth. It is one of the brightest stars in the northern sky, and it is at the very end of its path in life. Having exhausted the supply of thermonuclear fuel, the star should explode like a supernova. At the end of 2019, Betelgeuse riveted the attention of astronomers, because its brightness began to drop dramatically and reached a historical minimum, which made many wonder whether this is a sign of an imminent explosion, and whether a supernova explosion at such a close distance will harm us.
Fluctuations in the brightness of Betelgeuse over the past half century. At the end of 2019, brightness dropped to record lows
However, a couple of months later, Betelgeuse began to gain brightness again, and a little later astronomers came to the conclusion that the decrease in brightness was associated with the emission of dust, and the star itself, according to updated data, turned out to be somewhat smaller and closer in its parameters to the Sun - which means that it will not explode as soon as previously thought.
For the track in honor of Betelgeuse, Timur Khaziev took the same set of data on brightness fluctuations, albeit for a different period - when the star's brightness began to grow:
And this is what he did:
The next stop is the radio pulsar B0834 + 06, located about 2 thousand light years away. Pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron stars, the magnetic poles of which are sources of radio emission, the pulsar rotates, and if the Earth is in the path of its radio beam, radio telescopes "hear" the signal. Since the orbital period of a pulsar can be seconds (or even milliseconds), the pulsar signal, converted into sound, is like a machine-gun burst. This is how, for example, the pulsar B0835-45 sounds, located 800 light years away in the center of the nebula left after a supernova explosion in the southern constellation Sails: link to mp3-file.
Pulsar B0834 + 06 was studied using the Russian space radio telescope "Radioastron" (ASTs FIAN) and found anomalous scattering of its signal, as if there was some kind of screen in the path of radio waves propagating from it, changing the signal characteristics. Vyacheslav Avdeev, one of the project participants, a lecturer at the Moscow Planetarium and presenter of the Shklovskogo Street YouTube channel, suggested using not a machine-gun burst of pulsar signals, but a chronological series of spectrograms, which reveals the presence of this screen. In graphic format, it looks like this:
Spectrogram of the signal of the pulsar B0834 + 06
And this is how the track that Timur Khaziev created on the basis of this data set sounds:
You can continue your musical journey through the Universe and listen to compositions inspired by the famous black hole in the galaxy M87 (a year ago, scientists using the global telescope of the event horizon were able to see its shadow), other galaxies and stars.