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Universal objects and music are nowhere related to each other. But, US-space giant NASA (National Aeronautics Space Administration) attempted to show how music can come close to these heavenly objects. NASA has provided a sonification video of the Crab Nebula through its official Instagram account page under NASA Hubble Space Telescope. The video shows that the nebula is playing some cosmic tunes through its vibrant colors. The Crab Nebula is already famous for the wide range of colors present in it, displaying the amount of gaseous mixture it holds. Internet users have shown their deep interests in this sonification video provided by NASA.

About the Crab Nebula

The discovery of the Crab Nebula dates back to 1054 AD. Crab nebula was the first astronomical object identified that corresponds with a historical supernova explosion. It is a leftover remnant of a star whose life began with ten times the mass of the Sun in our solar system. The distance between the Crab Nebula and Earth is 6,500 light-years. It is not visible to the naked eye. But, the Crab Nebula comes into visibility if used in binoculars under favorable conditions. In the visible light, this nebula consists of an oval-shaped mass of filaments. This filament is six arc-minutes (angular measurement equal to the one-sixtieth part of a degree) long and four arc-minutes wide. There is a diffused blue region surrounding the oval-shaped filament of the nebula. The nebula is like an oblate spheroid or a prolate spheroid as per the observations in three dimensions. The image of the nebula currently available is the largest image ever taken with Hubble’s WFPC2 camera.

The Sonification

NASA has used the concept of sonification to understand the cosmic object present in the solar system. Sonification is like mapping the non-audio data with audio to observe the object’s variations due to the content or any other feature interacting with that heavenly object. It is a method of conveying or disseminating information by interpreting the data. E.g., dedicated and pollutant measuring niche devices assessing and analyzing the volume of greenhouse gases in Florida in audio data. The same methodology NASA has used to provide the audio data by processing the image from left to right through the nebula’s color variations. Some of the applications of sonification are:

  1. Geiger counter
  2. Gravitational waves from LIGO
  3. Pulse oximetry
  4. Volcanic activity
  5. Assessing the Dow Jones Industrial Average
  6. Auditory thermometer
  7. Information Systems for Visually Impaired People


Issues related to Sonification

One of the significant glitches with the methodology of sonification for space studies is that most of the data are not waves that travel through a medium. These data, when transmitted from the space objects, may intermingle with noise and get distorted. Hence, if there are no noise reduction instruments attached to the data reading and analyzing devices, they can provide an incorrect picture of the object. When received by spectroscopy or spectrum analyzer, data transmission can give errors if the light waves face any hindrance in the space.

NASA’s Sonification for the Crab Nebula

NASA space agency has used its three space observatories to acquire the Crab Nebula data to generate the audio. These three observatories are Chanda X-ray Observatory, Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Hubble telescope. Before this, NASA has provided the sonification of the following heavenly objects present in space:

  1. Abell 370
  2. Helix Nebula
  3. Cosmic Reef
  4. Twin Galaxies AM 2026-424
  5. Pillars of Creation in Eagle Nebula
  6. Lensing Galaxy Cluster (RXC J0142.9+4438)
  7. Milky Way Center

NASA has a “Sound of Space” project to explore the relation between audio and the solar system and its science. The project compares the visual and aural representations of space data from NASA’s STEREO mission. Hence, it is trying better to understand the Sun through NASA’s stimulating interactive software.


NASA’s sonification methodology would help to understand the Crab Nebula’s composition and structure. The spectroscopy and sonification would also let the astronauts and scientists get an idea of the nebula’s temperature region wise. Integrating the data with machine learning algorithms and space pollution impact patterns will give a brief picture of the stars and nebulae’s contribution to space environmental disasters and pollution. Till now, more than half a million have seen the video provided by NASA regarding the Crab Nebula sonification.

Source-NASA Uses Sonification for Crab Nebula Images

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