Science Behind the Show
An Orchestra of Planets
In the show, the Sun, Moon, and eight planets are transformed into different instruments with distinct pitches. The rocky planets form a woodwind ensemble while the gas giants make up the brass section. While each planet sounds unique, played together with the Sun they make up a wonderful blend of a B flat minor chord and G flat major seventh chord.
Explore the audio files below to hear the planets individually. Then below these, you can play the video to hear all of the planets together, which is a short excerpt from the show.
All Together Now!
In the video above, you should hear the planet orbit around your head (if you are wearing headphones). We decreased the volume of the planets as they go behind your head to further emphasize this motion. To demonstrate the orbit of the planets around the sun, we sped up each orbit. The shortest orbit is Mercury, which in reality takes 88 days but here we sped up the orbit to just fraction of a second. The longest orbit is Neptune, taking 165 years in reality.
We sonified Earth's rotation on its axis by changing the brightness of the sound based on how much sunlight is absorbed or reflected by the continents or oceans respectively. For instance, when the Sun is reflecting off the Pacific Ocean, most of the sunlight is reflected, and we hear a brighter tone. Inversely, when we are facing the continent of Africa, we hear a duller tone. Take a list in the video!
Stars Appearing in the Night Sky
During 'Audio Universe Tour of the Solar System', the audience listen to stars appearing in the night sky around them at the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT). The stars were sonifed as single notes on a glockenspiel. The location of the sound is based on the star's real position, the order in which each sound appears on the star's brightness, and the pitch is chosen based on the star's colour. The bluer stars are assigned higher pitches and the redder ones lower pitches. Blue stars are generally larger, hotter, and younger than red stars.