Music of the planets: listen to our solar system revolve

28 Apr 20169 Shares

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An orrery (mechanical model of the solar system) made by Benjamin Martin in 1766, and used to teach astronomy at Harvard, that is now on display in the Harvard Science Centre. Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Have you ever looked up at the stars and wondered about the song the universe sings? Perhaps you think the answer is in the hands of poets (or a Doctor Who storyline, at the least). It doesn’t have to be – enter SolarBeat.

Designed by Luke Twyman at WhiteVinyl, SolarBeat is a simple enough concept. A rudimentary model of our solar system is duplicated here, each planet (and Pluto) takes the shape of a revolving dot, and is assigned a musical note. The revolutions are tied to a scale representation of the length of each planet’s year.

In execution, it’s a thing of beauty. Hypnotic both in aesthetic and sound, SolarBeat provides a mesmerising way to pass a few moments (or minutes, or hours), calming the watcher and listener with each new note.

This is far from Gustav Holst’s The Planets. A stripped-back sound, generated by each of the planets passing a static line in their revolutions around the sun, there are no soaring strings here. But you don’t miss them. This is the pure sound of years passing.

SolarBeat comes with a speed scrubber. At low speeds, Mercury acts as a metronome, keeping the beat in the dance of planets. Faster, and it emits a hum – the backbone of the rest of the planets’ delicate notes.

The notes start low, closer to the sun, rising to an elegant pitch out at the border planets – notes you hear sparingly, intermingled with the more frequent sounds of the planets with relatively short years.

The latest iteration of SolarBeat – an original, more basic version can be found at whitevinyl.com – allows you to tinker with levels in the back-end, ramping up or turning down echo, flutter and bass.

Echo makes things sound more magical; flutter, more alien (like something you’d imagine on The X-Files); and bass, far more majestic – an appropriate choice for the giants moving across our skies.

Yes, SolarBeat isn’t a true representation of the sound of the universe – for that you’ll have to turn to other sources. But it’s an alternative I’m more than willing to take.

Click on the GIF to see and hear SolarBeat in action for yourself.

Gif of SolarBeat in action

SolarBeat in action, via WhiteVinyl.com

Gigglebit is Siliconrepublic.com’s daily dose of the funny and fantastic in science and tech, to help start your day on a lighter note.

Kirsty Tobin served as Careers Editor at Siliconrepublic.com up to August 2017

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