Milky Way's cosmic jazz can now be heard online

A researcher has turned the Milky Way into a jazz composition using an algorithm to express its gases.
By Tyler MacDonald | May 04, 2018
Mark Heyer of the University of Massachusetts Amherst has created an algorithm that expresses the gas movement in the Milky Way's disc as music, according to Science Alert. The resulting composition has jazz-like tones, and has been titled the Milky Way Blues.

"This musical expression lets you 'hear' the motions of our Milky Way galaxy," Heyer said. "The notes primarily reflect the velocities of the gas rotating around the centre of our galaxy."

Heyer mapped 20 years of radio telescope data on the Milky Way's gas using a pentatonic minor scale. The gases exist in three phases: molecular, atomic, and ionized. They can also move in specific directions towards us or away from us.

Using a pentatonic minor scale, he mapped 20 years of radio telescope data on gas in the Milky Way to musical notes and instruments.

The gases were turned into musical instruments based on their spectra. For example, molecular gases were turned into pianos and woodblocks, atomic gases into acoustic basses, and ionized gases into the saxophones. Gas moving towards us were turned into high notes, and gas moving away from us were turned into low notes. The longer the note, the stronger the emission line.

"Each observation is represented by a line showing where the telescope was pointing and the positions of the circles along a line show the locations of the gas in the galaxy responsible for the played notes," Heyer said.

Heyer's composition is featured onAstronomy Sound of the Month.

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