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Dancing to the Sounds of Space
Dancer Becky Byers in Sounds of Space at the British Antarctic Survey
Image Credit: Peter Bucktrout/BAS

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Dancing to the Sounds of Space

Spectrum of whistlers

Image Credit: Meredith/BAS

Whistlers and chorus are plasma waves in the upper atmosphere; Nigel P Meredith describes how converting them to sounds opens the doors to a wide range of outreach activities with artists and gamers.

Nigel P Meredith of the British Antarctic Survey describes some of the outcomes of a project in which signals from plasma waves in the magnetosphere – whistlers and chorus – are converted to sound and interpreted by artists and musicians. This innovative approach complements the “Merry Dancers” of the aurora with actual dancers such as Becky Byers,  music from composer Kim Cunio, and artist-engineer Diana Scarborough. These collaborations are producing innovative outreach projects combining contemporary dance with soundscapes and animation, touring the universe through weird frequency patterns presented as sounds. Sounds of Space takes the audience on a tour from Earth's magnetosphere to the considerably larger magnetosphere of Jupiter, Saturn and even comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko – plus the beat of pulsars and the chirps of merging black holes. See – and hear - more in the video below.

The utterly unearthly sounds produced in this project – described by Meredith as "a bit like entering the set of a 1960s sci-fi movie!" have even been picked up to add atmosphere to a space exploration video game, Elite Dangerous, in which players use them to identify features of the planets they are surveying in this alternative universe.  

It's a bit like entering the set of a 1960s sci-fi movie!

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