NASA Turned Ocean Satellite Imagery Into New Age Music


It comes as no surprise to us New Age music fans, but nature is filled with sources that can be turned into “our” kind of music. Now NASA turned ocean satellite imagery into lovely-sounding melodies – perfect for meditation and relaxation. 

“Experience the swirls off the coast of Río de la Plata to the upwellings in the Indian Ocean put to musical notes of imagery from our own Earth-observing satellites,” writes NASA. “For the last 18 months, a scientist and his brother at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, have been developing an online program that merges ocean color data with musical notes. The goal is to give onlookers an immersive experience into the ocean imagery Goddard scientists study everyday in an effort to understand the complexities of a large, changing ecosystem.”

“We wanted to tell a story to appreciate the connectivity of our Earth’s ocean through this aural sonic experience,” said co-creator and Goddard scientist Ryan Vandermeulen. “We use music because it’s engaging and dynamic and connects us across a wide variety of backgrounds.”

Vandermeulen’s “oceanographic symphonic experience” started with an ocean color image of Río de la Plata. He was struck by its complexity: the beautiful sediment plumes spilling off the shore, the “crazy swirls and whirls” he followed in the bay, and the large sediment plume that seemed to spiral everywhere. Vandermeulen had a thought – what would this image sound like? “I started by extracting transactive data from satellite images. I looked at the patterns of the red, green, blue channels,” he said. “Clearly, they weren’t traveling in the same direction. There was something there.” In order to use the data, he rescaled the individual color channels and assigned musical notes to express changes in the image. “The data itself, you’re listening to it as it exists. The variations are creating a natural palette for the ear,” he said.

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