Posted in astronomy, music

What a supernova sounds like

The tag line from the film Alien “In space, no one can hear you scream” may be true, but that doesn’t mean that space doesn’t make music.

From Discover Magazine’s Discoblog, how supernovas make music:

cassWhile we know what it looks like when a star explodes into a luminous supernova, here’s a chance to discover what one sounds like–sorta. Scientists have translated a supernova’s electromagnetic waves into waves of sound; and when there is sound, there is music. Enter the Grateful Dead.

The band’s famed percussionist Mickey Hart is working on a musical project to “sonify” the universe, taking sounds collected by scientists from supernovae and other astronomical phenomena and using them in his new album “Rhythms of the Universe.” To anyone who has ever heard one of the Grateful Dead’s extended “drums and space” jams, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

Keith Jackson, a computer scientist and musician who works at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, collaborated with Hart on this project, collecting data from the supernova Cassiopeia A. He converted this high-frequency electromagnetic wave data into lower-frequency sound waves that are within the range of human hearing. Hart took these sounds and used them to create music that was presented during the Cosmology at the Beach Conference held recently in Mexico.

For Jackson, Science Daily reports, the opportunity to turn data from supernovae into something Mickey Hart could use in an album was the best of both worlds.

Here’s a supernova making noise:

And now, all those jokes about what Saturn’s rings would sound like if you played them like a record are no longer jokes!



Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.

One thought on “What a supernova sounds like

  1. stunning. absolutely stunning 🙂

    Is it wrong to compare the sound of a supernova, to the deep waters of the ocean? That’s what it sure sounds like to me!

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