spaceSpace and Physics

Someone Turned Our Milky Way Galaxy Into Music And It’s, Uh, Interesting


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer


Ever wonder what would happen if you turned the Milky Way into music? No? Well tough, you’re going to listen to it anyway.

Yes, a team of scientists has turned the rotation of our galaxy into music, creating a somewhat interesting musical piece dubbed “Milky Way Blues”.


It was created by Greg Salvesen from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his colleagues. It’s part of a project called Astronomy Sound of the Month (AstroSoM), different pieces of music from real astronomical data are featured.

“AstroSoM explores how sound complements more traditional astronomy data analysis,” Salvesen said in a statement. “Besides, making sounds out of real astronomy data is just plain cool!”

You can have a listen below.



So, how did his team make it? Well, it’s all based on the velocities of gases in our galaxy. In the video, they used a visualization of our Milky Way, and used Earth as a starting point for the music.

Using data from radio telescopes, they drew lines extending out from our planet, the direction the telescope was pointing. Along these lines, each circle corresponds to the motion of gas in that location. Gas that’s coming towards us is given a high note and a blue color. Gas going away is low and red.

This was used to create a pentatonic scale, which is a scale that uses five notes per octave, something that’s often used in jazz, rock, and – yes – blues music.

Different instruments were then used to denote different phases of the gas. Acoustic bass was used for the atomic phase, wood blocks and piano for the molecular phase, and saxophone for the ionized phase.


Moving in a circle, the different lines thus produce different pentatonic scales, with each circle corresponding to a different location of gas in the galaxy. Put it together and you get the finished product, the Milky Way Blues.

“‘Milky Way Blues’ has a bit of a player piano look and feel to it, which is what we wanted,” Salvesen said. “What you’re hearing is the rotation or the motion of gas in our galaxy.”

If this has inspired a thirst for more astronomical music, then you might want to hear some of AstroSoM's other creations. They've also recreated the “sound” of a Fast Radio Burst (FRB), used the Solar System to cover the Radiohead song True Love Waits, and arranged a musical history of supernovae.


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