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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Galactic Explosions Set to Music

gamma-ray bursts

This is an artistic interpretation of galactic event. It's not for everyone, but it is fun to see how astronomers see the Cosmos.

Gamma-ray bursts are explosions of high-frequency electromagnetic radiation. They are the brightest events known to occur in the universe. This animation combines these bursts with music to create a compelling composition.

While gamma-ray bursts are byproducts of the deaths of massive stars and the mergers of dense objects, such as black holes and neutron stars. At least, that is the theory.

This was created by Sylvia Zhu, a graduate student in physics at the University of Maryland, College Park, who studies gamma-ray bursts at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, using the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

Zhu converted the gamma-ray signals detected by the Fermi telescope into notes on musical instruments. The complete composition, which contains four movements, resembles "Fantasia," if it were set to cats walking on musical instruments.

She worked with Turner Gillespie, an art student at the Maryland Institute College of Art, in Baltimore, to develop animations to go along with the cosmic music. Gillespie chipped in to interpret the sounds to create abstract animations.

The bursts begin with an initial bright flash of gamma rays, known as the "prompt emission." This flash can last for a few milliseconds to several minutes, followed by an "afterglow" made up of less-energetic electromagnetic emissions including X-rays, visible light and radio waves. This part of the explosion can last anywhere from a single day to many months.


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