Scientists Now Listen to the Solar Wind

ANN ARBOR, Mich., March 2 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they have “sonified” solar wind data, allowing researchers to listen to the solar wind that’s usually represented as numbers or graphs.

University of Michigan researchers said they created an acoustic, or musical, representation of the solar wind in order to hear information that their eyes might have missed in solar wind speed and particle density data gathered by NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer satellite.


The solar wind is a stream of charged particles emanating from the sun.

The process of sonification isn’t new, the researchers said, noting that is the process used by Geiger counter radiation detectors that emit clicks in the presence of high-energy particles.

“What makes this project different is the level of artistic license I was given,” said composer and recent School of Music alumnus Robert Alexander.

The product, which Alexander says is “in between art and science,” uses a drum beat to represent the rotation of the sun, and the voice of a singer — his sister — to represent the charge state of carbon atoms.

“Every piece of scientific data tells a story. I’m expressing this story through music,” Alexander said. “These sonifications present scientific data in a way that is immediately visceral.”

An example of sonification is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kryCbfRJCyk.

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