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Immersive show helps blind people to ‘hear’ the Universe

A special spacecraft fitted with a ‘sonification machine’ that turns the light from objects in space into sounds, allows blind and partially sighted people to ‘hear’ the Universe.

The new show, developed by astronomers from the universities of Newcastle and Portsmouth, takes people on an immersive journey of the solar system.

Although the primary audience is school children aged 7-14, the sound-based educational astronomy show makes learning about the Universe a more inclusive experience for people of all ages. 

Blind astronomer Dr Nic Bonne from the University of Portsmouth’s Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, acted as a consultant on the project and he also plays himself in the show and acts as the expert tour guide. 

Dr Bonne said:

As someone with a vision impairment I really wish this kind of show had existed when I was a kid.

The project uses a specially designed computer code called Sonification Tools and Resources for Astronomers Using Sound Synthesis (STRAUSS) to represent real astronomical data through sound in a variety of ways. 

Newcastle University’s Dr Chris Harrison is an astronomer and creator and director of the Audio Universe: Tour of the Solar System show. Dr Harrison said:

Interest in using sound to represent astronomical data has been growing over the past few years because astronomers have realised the potential to use our ears, instead of, or as well as our eyes, to explore the latest gigantic datasets coming from telescopes.

Audio Universe: Tour of the Universe has been released online for free for both professional planetariums and for viewing online at home or in schools. It is part funded by the STFC `Spark Award’ and a Royal Astronomical Society Education and Outreach Small Grant. 

A flat screen, full version of Audio Universe: Tour of the Solar System (35 minutes can be viewed here:

Photo: Greg Rakozy on Unsplash