As the Voyager space probes plunge into the inky cosmic void, each carries a golden record with 27 songs ranging from Mozart to Chuck Berry. Now, with help from a musical physicist, the twin space probes boast a song of their own.
Each craft carries a cosmic ray detector snapping hourly measurements of the number of protons whirring past them. Over the last 37 years, the probes recorded more than 320,000 such measurements. Domenico Vicinanza, a musician with a Ph.D. in physics, mapped each value with a corresponding note on the musical range, with larger counts corresponding to higher notes. Stringing and mixing the notes together, Vicinanza assembled the spacecraft’s musical score.
In the song, Voyager 1 plays the piano while Voyager 2 accompanies on the string instruments. Each overlapping note during the song corresponds to the spacecraft simultaneously measuring cosmic rays while soaring through space billions of miles apart.
While Vicinanza admits he composed the musical arrangement purely as a fun way to present the Voyager mission data, he says transforming data sets into music in this way can help scientists recognize trends and patterns they might otherwise miss. And that makes for music that’s definitely out of this world.
This story has been provided by AAAS, the non-profit science society, and its international journal, Science.