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The celestial symphony of dying stars


A high school outreach project turns the most violent explosions in our universe into mesmerizing music

When we think of explosions, one of the strongest associations we make is with loud, deafening sound. But sound doesn't travel through the universe. When we observe dying stars, and they ivariably die with a spectacular explosion, our telescopes only see the flashes of light generated from it, sometimes thousands of times brighter than the dying star itself.

The Zwicky Transient Facility has the most comprehensive survey of supernovae, called the Bright Transient Survey with more than 8000 classified supernova (supernovae come in various types and astronomers can classify them by looking at the color composition of the light generated during the explosion). What if we could here all these thousands of star die?

This is what Vanya Agrawal, a high school student from Palos Verdes High School in Los Angeles has attempted under the guidance of a Caltech astronomer Christoffer Fremling who is also the lead of the Bright Transient Survey.

The properties of the supernovae, such as date of discovery, lightcurve duration, type, peak brightness were translated into musical parameters such as type of instrument, volume, sound duration and more.

Are you interested to try to make music using astronomical data from the ZTF? Please, get in touch with us at ztf [at] caltech [dot] edu.