You might not be able to hear anything in space but NASA is making it possible for us to actually “hear” space. This is made possible by using “sonifications,” which are audio tracks without speech that allow us to audibly quantify the data, and this nebula sounds incredibly cool.
The nebula that NASA featured in this video is NGC 2392, also known as the Eskimo Nebula. It began forming nearly 10,000 years ago and is composed of dual elliptical lobes of matter being blown out of both the top and bottom of a dying star, similar in size to our Sun. NGC 2392 was first spotted by William Herschel in 1787 and is located approximately 5,000 light-years away in the Gemini constellation.
This isn’t the first object in space that NASA has created a soundscape for. NASA’s data sonification project has already created soundscapes for other galaxies and black holes. And now, NGC 2392 is its latest entry. Have a listen in this video:
In the video, we can see the image being scanned clockwise, similar to a sweeping radar. To create the soundscape, NASA enlisted astrophysicist Matt Russois and musician Andrew Santaguida. The two mapped the radius to a series of pitches, which play as the bar sweeps around the nebula.
The two assigned light further from the core to higher pitches. We can hear the outer ring of the nebula’s shell—or, more specifically, the spherical layer of ionized gas—as the rising and falling of pitch. We can also hear the louder volumes of the bright spikes ejecting outward from the center of the nebula.
The result? A truly one of a kind—yet eerie and ethereal—sound. Is it aliens? Is it something creepy from a video game? Is it an experimental band from the 80s? Nobody knows.
All we do know is that it’s super cool and we can’t wait for Pink Floyd or Kraftwerk or Radiohead to make a song from it, or for Mulder and Scully to give us the scoop. In the meantime, grab your headphones, crank the volume up to 11, and enjoy this unique way of exploring our universe.