A nebula is a huge cloud of dust and gas that surrounds the space between stars. We’ve seen many images of different types of nebulae thanks to observatories built by scientists over the years. Now, can you imagine how these cosmic clouds appear when interpreted as sound? NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shared a video on Instagram that shows the sonification of data captured by the Cats Eye Nebula and the agency’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. “Experience the Cats Eye Nebula through sound,” Post said.
A planetary nebula is formed when stars like the Sun remove their outer gaseous layers to form bright nebulae. Scientists believe that the Cat’s Eye Nebula, also known as NGC 6543, was formed after ejecting the mass of the star in a series of pulses at 1500-year intervals. And thus, the image appears like an onion cut in half, where each skin layer can be seen. It refers to a bull’s-eye pattern of eleven or so concentric circles around the “cat’s eye”. Each shell is the edge of a circular bubble.
Astronomers have proposed several explanations for these ring-like patterns, including cycles of magnetic activity somewhat similar to our own Sun’s sunspot cycles and stellar pulsations.
This information is represented in musical form using data sonification techniques. The post states that X-rays from the Chandra Observatory are represented by a hard sound, while the visible light data from the Hubble sound is smoother.
“A radar-like scan of the image emerges from the center point of the nebula and moves clockwise to create a pitch. Light that is further from the center is heard as higher pitches while brighter light is intensified,” the post said. The circular rings produce a continuous humming.
When a Sun-like star starts running out of helium to burn, it blows up huge clouds of gas and dust, NASA said. These explosions can create spectacular structures such as those seen in the Cat’s Eye Nebula.
The Hubble Telescope has been in service for more than 30 years. It will soon be succeeded by the expensive, more powerful James Webb Space Telescope.