Bad Astronomy

Mesmerizing visualization of a geomagnetic storm

When the Sun belches out an eructation of subatomic particles, they can travel across the solar system and interact with the Earth’s magnetic field. This can make our field ring like a bell, shaking the particles trapped within, and generating electromagnetic noise and signals across the radio spectrum. The CARISMA radio array can detect these emissions and learn about how the Sun’s and Earth’s fields interact.

That’s the science. But there’s art here, too: the Lighthouse agency commissioned artists to create digital artwork based on science, and one group, Semiconductor, used the CARISMA data to do so. Based on the data, they translated the radio waves (which are like the light we see, but less energetic) and converted them to sound. This has been done many times before, but what’s cool is that they then created an animation based on the converted sounds, an astonishing and odd and mesmerizing animation. Watch:

How wild is that? It reminds me of the movie “Forbidden Planet”. The vibrating patterns are wonderful, and while I’m not sure how much scientific insight can be gained from them, the aesthetics are riveting. And I can hope the underlying purpose of this will be seen: to show that science is beauty, science is art, and that if this gets someone who might not otherwise be interested to poke a little further into it, then mission accomplished.

Related posts:

- Cosmically creepy chords
- Listen in on the Perseid meteor shower
- Saturn, the forbidden planet
- Phoenix sings