Research

Overview

We are performing research in the following: (1) using sonification for astronomical data analysis and (2) understanding how effectively sonification can aid accessibility and public engagement. As part of this work we have performed a review of astronomy application of sonification (up until December 2021) which is published by Nature Astronomy (a pre-print is available on arXiv).


For the former, we are primarily using our new flexible sonification code, STRAUSS (see below) to turn data into sound. Our on-going research includes trying new approaches to turn astrophysical light curves in sound (for example, the recording the dips in a stars' brightness when an exoplanets passes in front of it) and turning galaxy spectra into sound. We are working on publications on this topic.


For the accessibility and public engagement side, we have already released a publication on the application of sonification to make an accessible astronomy show (a pre-print available on arXiv) and an article on accessibility in astronomy (arXiv).

STRAUSS

To create sonfications, we primarily utilise our new code Sonification Tools and Resources for Astronomers Using Sound Synthesis (STRAUSS). Briefly, this python code allows the user to synthesise sounds or manipulate pre-recorded audio samples with properties (e.g. pitch, volume, timbre) that are mapped from input data.


You can also move objects in artificial space around an ‘observer’ and the code will correctly calculate the relative volumes for the different channels of different speaker setups (e.g. stereo or 5.1 systems). For example we used this to assign a sound to the Moon and the planets and then create the illusion, through sound, that they orbit around the audience. Additionally, we added a volume envelope to emphasise this orbiting effect.


STRAUSS can be used as a sonification tool for all kinds of data analysis. It was used to create the sonifications in Audio Universe: Tour of the Solar System, and we are currently applying STRAUSS to data from galaxies to learn how sound could be used to identify growing supermassive black holes and places of rapid star creation.


The STRAUSS code is publicly available on GitHub below. A citable pre-release version is available on Zenedo here: https://zenodo.org/record/5776280#.YcgyoxPP3Vo

Other Astronomy Sonification Projects for Research

Within the past few years, more and more scientists have been exploring the research possibilities of data sonification across many fields. One of our goals is to collate international sonification techniques in astronomy. Below you listen to a talk summarising some of this work and you will find links to a small selection of sonification research projects (mostly connected with Astronomy).

Data Sonification Archive

A collection of resources across a wide range of scientific fields that combine data, design, and sonification. Filter the archive to "physical sciences" to explore the many astronomy sonifications.

Astronify

Astronify is a data sonification package for python. Some of its current applications include sonifying solar flares and exoplanet transits. Read in time-series data directly from the telescope's archives, including Kepler, and turn them into sound.

SonoUno

SonoUno is a software developed with Python for sonifying astronomical data in an easy-to-use graphical user interface. Some of its current applications include sonifying galaxy spectra and gravitational wave detections. Universal design is at the core of this project.

StarSound

A flexible and accessible sonification software. Read in data series with multiple dimensions and sonify them with an array of options. Controllable from the command line and with a input file, or with a graphical interface.

Sonification World YouTube Channel

This YouTube channel has a series of recorded presentations all about sonification (from astronomy and other areas).