Where the Physics of Music and the Music of (Astro)Physics Collide

Inspired by the discovery of the remarkable TRAPPIST-1 planetary system, an astrophysicist, a musician, and an astrophysicist/musician decided to see what happens when the rhythmic and harmonic structure of planetary systems is translated directly into music. The result is SYSTEM Sounds, a collection of music and animations generated by numerical simulations, real data, and a little creativity. 

Our first creation, TRAPPIST Sounds, was featured in the New York Times, on BBC Radio, and on CBC’s Quirks and Quarks.

To celebrate the end of the Cassini spacecraft’s mission on Sept. 15 2017, we translated the moons and rings of Saturn into music in SATURN Sounds Part 1 & Part 2. Then we converted density waves within the rings into sound waves with interesting results (Elephants? Children playing? A Bomb drop? What do you hear?) and created a piece of Zappa-style music by converting every pixel of the highest resolution image of the B Ring into a duet for harp and drums.

What’s New?

We’ve created a new video to explain the marvellous music of TRAPPIST-1 and how it keeps the system from destroying itself. We’ve entered it in the Science Showcase Video Competition so please share widely to help our chances!

You can now play the music of the TRAPPIST-1 system any way you want by simply pressing buttons in our new web application. Click the image to begin creating your own space music and record a screen capture to share your work. We’d love to hear it!
We have refactored our open-source code so that it is more easily extendable, and added several examples to work from. It is now easier to take new ideas and customize your sonifications/animations. We’re using the new code for some exciting projects, and would love to hear what you come up with! Click the image to access the code through via GitHub.