As the NASA team intended, these soundscapes are making James Webb’s images even more available to a wider range of people.
“These compositions provide a different way to experience the detailed information in Webb’s first data. Similar to how written descriptions are unique translations of visual images, sonifications also translate the visual images by encoding information, like color, brightness, star locations, or water absorption signatures, as sounds,” said Quyen Hart, a senior education and outreach scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. “Our teams are committed to ensuring astronomy is accessible to all.”
The tracks in question are not sounds recorded in space – however much they may seem like it. Instead, Russo and his collaborator, musician Andrew Santaguida, mapped Webb’s data to sound, carefully composing music to accurately represent details the team would like listeners to focus on.
For instance, in the Cosmic Cliffs in the Carina Nebula soundscape, the team assigned unique notes to the semi-transparent, gauzy regions and very dense areas of gas and dust in the nebula, culminating in a buzzing soundscape.
“The sonification scans the image from left to right. The soundtrack is vibrant and full, representing the detail in this gigantic, gaseous cavity that has the appearance of a mountain range. The gas and dust in the top half of the image are represented in blue hues and windy, drone-like sounds. The bottom half of the image, represented in ruddy shades of orange and red, has a clearer, more melodic composition,” per NASA.