NASA releases the breathtakingly beautiful sound of the Butterfly Nebula

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A cinematic burst of colour and sound from the depths of outer space…

Space is a largely silent place. Once you leave the Earth’s atmosphere, you’re plunged into a vacuum of immeasurable vastness, where a complete lack of molecules mean that the minute reverberations that cause audible sound simply cannot happen.

But what if we could turn photographic data into music?

This is exactly what a project by NASA, titled ‘A Universe of Sound’, aims to undertake. Using data captured by three of its telescopes, the striking and awe-inspiring images of our galaxy are brought to life in a star-strewn symphony.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has captured an image of the stunning Butterfly Nebula.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has captured an image of the stunning Butterfly Nebula.

The brilliant minds at the USA’s space agency have taken a breathtaking image of the Butterfly Nebula, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, and transformed it into a lush soundscape that sounds like something straight out of a dream.

As a wave scans across the image, it translates what it sees into sound. Sonic pitch is mapped onto the image from top to bottom – the higher the light, the higher the pitch, and vice versa. Distant stars are plucked out on a digital harp, with brighter stars resulting in a louder sound, whilst the gassy ‘wings’ of the nebula are represented by strings and cinematic synthesisers.

The cacophony begins with a rapid plucking as billions of stars are scanned, before the sweeping synthesisers creep in. The starry soundscape builds in a glorious crescendo as it reaches the bright star at the centre of the nebula, before fading away as the gas disperses into space.

The Butterfly Nebula is created by a dying star, which still remains at the centre of the mass, with a dual-winged structure which earned it the nickname, ‘Butterfly’.

Although it looks rather delicate – cute, almost – in the telescope-captured images we can see, its actual size is almost impossible to comprehend. From tip to tip, its wingspan has a breadth of over three light-years, has a temperature of around 20,000 degrees Celsius, and travels through space at over 600,000 miles per hour.

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About Aakash Ghosh 293 Articles
Akash is a cricket player himself and loves to write reviews of the matches. He is also a Freelance Text Commentator on various cricket news websites. Akash can be reached at [email protected]

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