Starsounds project composes music from acoustic waves of stars

Hyperaxion June 28, 2020 10:07 pm

Project is organized by famous scientists and musicians – including Brian May, Queen guitarist and astrophysicist.

It is a known fact that sound waves do not propagate in a vacuum, but with scientific and technological advances, researchers have found that stars produce acoustic waves, generated by convection, that travel through their interior. Although they are imperceptible to the human ear, they can be recorded and converted into music, using a technique called asteroseismology. And that is exactly what astrophysicist Garik Israelian has been doing with the help of other musicians passionate about astronomy – like Brian May, guitarist for Queen and also an astrophysicist.

The galaxy NGC 4214, located around 10 million light-years away in the constellation of Canes Venatici. (Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center).

Israelian and May are organizers of the Starmus Festival that brings together scientists, astronauts, and musicians to discuss space exploration. In addition to promoting lectures, exhibitions, and concerts, the event also has the participation of the Starsounds project, which seeks to create an “orchestra” from the acoustic waves generated by stars.

Shared on YouTube, Starsounds’ first cosmic song was generated from infrasound (extremely low and deep sound waves) of stars, which were recorded by Israelian in 2005. The song was arranged by composer Brian Eno, who increased the speed of the acoustic waves recorded by Israelian so that they could be heard. The video images were created by Paul Franklin and Oliver James, specialists at the visual effects company DNEG.

An artist’s concept of how sound waves propagate through stars. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech).

The Starmus Festival has been running since 2011 and has featured astronauts such as Alexei Leonov (the first man to go into space), Jim Lovell (a member of Apollo 13), Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (members of Apollo 11, the first mission to reach the Moon). Others who have already participated in the event are scientists Neil deGrasse Tyson and Kip Thorne, as well as musicians and composers Hans Zimmer (who made the soundtrack for films like Interstellar and Inception) and Peter Gabriel.

Listen to Starsounds’ first song below:

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