May. 27, 2011

Supernova Sonata

by Leslie Taylor

Video by Unfuzified

Between April 2003 and August 2005, the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope detected 241 Type Ia supernovas, which are explosions of one or more white dwarf stars. University of Victoria astronomer Alex Parker and UC Santa Barbara's Melissa Graham took data collected during this period as part of the CFHT Legacy Survey and made it into music. For this "Supernova Sonata," each supernova was assigned a pitch (based on its "stretch" -- a property of how it brightens and fades), an instrument (based on the kind of galaxy in which it was observed -- massive galaxies = stand-up bass, less massive = grand piano), and a volume (based on the distance to the supernova).

The astronomers/artists explain how they constructed the above video:

The four Deep Fields are shown in color, and the positions of all the supernova are illustrated as time progresses. The animation is rendered at 15 frames per second, and each frame corresponds to just under a single day (one second in the animation corresponds to roughly two weeks of real time).

via io9

About Leslie Taylor

Leslie is the online editor at and She has a background in oceanography and is passionate about getting non-scientists and young people to realize how cool science can be. She is also Science Friday's former web editor.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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