What Does a Nebula Sound Like?

What do things sound like out in the cosmos? Of course, sound waves can’t travel through the vacuum of space; however, electromagnetic waves can. These electromagnetic waves can be recorded by devices called spectrographs on many of the world’s most powerful telescopes. Astronomer Paul Francis from the Australian National University has used some of these recordings and converted them into sound by reducing their frequency 1.75 trillion times to make them audible, as the original frequencies are too high to be heard by the human ear.

“This allows us to listen to many parts of the universe for the first time,” Francis wrote on his website. “We can hear the song of a comet, the chimes of stars being born or dying, the choir of a quasar eating the heart of a galaxy, and much more.”

Above, is Francis’ recording of a nebula. It is actually a medley of sounds from different nebulae, but our friend César Cantú of the Chilidog Observatory in Monterrey, Mexico, has put together the sounds with images he took of the Rosette Nebula, or NGC2244.

This provides both a visual and audio hint of what a nebula might sound like, if our ears could hear at electromagnetic frequencies. Being able to ‘hear’ this gives one a feeling akin to being Superman! — as well as offering new insights into our Universe.

Francis also has the sounds of the Sun, quasars, comets, other nebulae, and more. Check out his audio recordings here.

And many thanks to César Cantú to for sending us his video.

7 Replies to “What Does a Nebula Sound Like?”

  1. I used to play a deep space exploration game with soundtracks similar to this. Interesting to know, and shocked me a little, that this is really what a nebula would sound like. Very mysterious.

  2. This is so misleading and inaccurate. I’m a sound engineer. I listen to and record ambient music all the time (similar to this piece) And I love Science and Astronomy. This is an interesting idea but I wouldn’t call it anything else. I can record a dog barking or a guitar or anything and “reduce” or double the frequencies by four times and it would sound completely different. If you record the rumble of an earthquake and double it until it’s around the 3K to 15K range, it’s not going to sound like an earthquake anymore. Reducing something in the TRILLIONS is a joke. Do not think you are ‘hearing’ the Universe or experiencing anything close or actually anything that this article states. You’re hearing someone using a digital synth on a computer. I could take the frequencies that a laser operates at, do some calculations and play that. You’re not “hearing a laser.”

    Anyway, cool idea, but very misleading.

    1. I’m not sure if one could consider this “misleading and inaccurate”. Even the images that one sees of most deep-space objects (and many within our Solar System) are mostly fabrications of multi-spectral data that’s been manipulated so that they can be “seen” by humans, and this is very much the same thing, only the medium is audible sound.

      Also, if you do a proper job of audio engineering, especially music, you know that quite often subsonic and ultrasonic frequencies have a profound effect on how the sound is heard and experienced by the listener, and if you chop these frequencies out of your final chart, the results are disappointing at beat.

      Personally, I’d rather hear this manipulated something, than the alternative, which is nothing.

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