by Julie McEnery
June 21, 2012
from NASABlogs Website
What does the universe look like at high energies?
Thanks to the Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT), we can extend our sense of sight to "see" the universe in gamma rays. But humans not only have a sense of sight, we also have a sense of sound.
If we could listen to the high-energy-universe,
A gamma-ray burst, the most energetic
explosions in the universe, converted to music. Made by Sylvia
Zhu (music) and Judy Racusin (animation)
Sound waves have frequencies too, and similarly, we can hear some of them as musical notes.
So what happens if we convert
high-energy photons into musical notes?
The brightest part of it lasted less
than a minute, during which the LAT detected hundreds of gamma rays
from the extremely-distant explosion; when we converted the data to
music, we slowed the rates down by a factor of five times to hear
the individual gamma rays better.
This particular conversion is a fairly
simple one. We built this on work done by other members of the LAT
team (Luca Baldini and Alex Drlica-Wagner) who
explored converting our data into music in different ways.
After about half a minute, the piano
joins in on top of the harp background, and the notes begin to pile
on more and more rapidly. The cello enters the scene as the burst
begins in earnest.
The colors refer to,
...quality gamma-rays (played by harp, cello and piano respectively).
The energy of the gamma-ray is on the y-axis (higher energy gamma-rays are towards the top of the plot) and the arrival time of the gamma-rays are on the x-axis (later arriving gamma-rays are further to the right).
The vertical white line tells you where
the music is currently playing. The bottom panel shows the number of
gamma-rays (which is the number of notes played) in each time slice.