Some 4 billion light-years away from Earth, a massive galaxy cluster is sprawling in the vastness of space, stretching the spiral arms of its many elliptical structures like glowing tentacles in the cosmic night.
The galaxy cluster in question is known as RXC J0142.9+4438 and was first spotted last year by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. According to Sci-News, the formidable structure was imaged by the NASA spacecraft as part of an extensive observing program called Reionization Lensing Cluster Survey (RELICS).
In all, RELICS has spied on a total of 41 giant galaxy clusters over the course of 390 Hubble orbits in a bid to find the brightest distant galaxies. This particular galaxy cluster, which is nestled in the Andromeda constellation, was photographed by Hubble on August 13, 2018 — making headlines at the time as a “galactic treasure chest.”
The distant cluster is home to thousands of galaxies, all huddled together through gravitational attraction, details the Hubble Space Telescope website. Each of these galaxies – which appear as mere specks of light in the captivating snapshot – fosters countless stars, a few of which can be seen shining brightly in the foreground of the photo. Those particular stars are located a little closer to Earth, while the bulk of the cluster is visible at the very center of the Hubble image.
Seven months after its big unveiling, the cosmic treasure trove is once more brought into the spotlight, Space is reporting. Recently, an incredible project has breathed new life into the Hubble photo by adding a sonic dimension to the stunning visuals.
The credit goes to the science-art outreach program System Sounds, which teamed up with NASA to convert the breathtaking image into sound. The result of this creative work is a haunting audio clip, released by NASA earlier this week. As the space agency points out, the clip represents a “sonified” visualization of the galaxy cluster, one that reveals the eerie song of its many galaxies.
To clarify, the audio clip is by no means a recording from space, but rather the result of processing light into sound. As NASA explained, scientists at System Sounds translated the light emitted by the many galaxies and some individual stars in the cluster into sound, resulting in an otherworldly tune that reflects an audio “image” of what RXC J0142.9+4438 looks like in the Hubble photo.
This might be the most unusual type of music you hear anywhere. Click to hear what happens when we translate the light captured in this gorgeous @NASAHubble image of a galaxy cluster… into sound! ????????https://t.co/XWjexvMGvg pic.twitter.com/xllp9jr1jx— NASA Blueshift (@NASAblueshift) March 4, 2019
In the audio file, the stunning Hubble snapshot is being read by a computer from left to right, with an algorithm attributing a higher pitch to the objects found higher up in the photo – and a lower one to those resting toward the bottom.
“Time flows left to right, and the frequency of sound changes from bottom to top, ranging from 30 to 1,000 hertz,” notes NASA.
In addition, bigger and brighter galaxies and stars give off a louder pitch in the clip, which plays the sounds as the algorithm goes over each galaxy and star in the cluster.
“Stars and compact galaxies create short, clear tones, while sprawling spiral galaxies emit longer notes that change pitch,” details a statement from NASA officials.
Meanwhile, the heart of the galaxy cluster – the massive collection of galaxies located in the center of the Hubble image – gives off “a swell of mid-range tones” which can be heard halfway through the audio clip. The resulting tune is out of this world, lending an air of mystery and fascination to the distant galaxy cluster – one which now boasts a beckoning, spooky anthem of its own.
“Listen to hundreds of compact elliptical galaxies, many elongated spiral galaxies, and a few foreground stars,” reads a tempting invitation on the Sound System website.