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NASA puts the sounds of the universe into a new album

Computer-simulated image of a supermassive black hole at the core of a galaxy.
NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute
Computer-simulated image of a supermassive black hole at the core of a galaxy.

What if, instead of seeing the universe as an explosion of light, we could hear it? That's where Kimberly Arcand, a visualization scientist and emerging tech lead for NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory, comes in. She's part of NASA's Sonification Project, an effort to turn data gathered from the universe into sounds, in part as a way to allow visually impaired people to experience the depths of our galaxy.

"With excellent math," says Arcand, explaining their work on the high-pressure interplay between a supermassive black hole and the hot gas surrounding it, "you can figure out that [the pressure is] essentially a B-flat, about 57 octaves below middle C."

The result of their research: a new album, titled Universal Harmonies, with a beauty all its own. It's out March 10.


To hear this conversation and samples from the album, use the audio player at the top of this page.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Ava Norgrove