No amount of listening is going to help you hear something as visual as a sunrise, especially one on Mars. Unless, of course, you make your own sound effects, like Dr Domenico Vicinanza and Dr Genevieve Williams did with a photo of the Opportunity rover’s 5000th morning on the red planet. The end result is this two-minute musical number that, by definition, is otherworldly.
While the data is read in a straightforward way, it’s the interpretation that’s the clever part:
Researchers created the piece of music by scanning a picture from left to right, pixel by pixel, and looking at brightness and colour information and combining them with terrain elevation. They used algorithms to assign each element a specific pitch and melody.
The quiet, slow harmonies are a consequence of the dark background and the brighter, higher pitched sounds towards the middle of the piece are created by the sonification of the bright sun disk.
The music wasn’t just for our benefit — it was presented last week at the SC18 Conference in Dallas, where attendees had a chance not just to hear the piece, but feel it, too:
[It was] presented using both conventional speakers and vibrational transducers so the audience could feel the vibrations with their hands, thus enjoying a first-person experience of a sunrise on Mars.
I suppose you could always put your hands on your speakers while it plays. Not quite the same, though.