Cymatics at the Smithsonian
A few months ago we were asked by Deborah Stokes, curator for education at
the Smithsonian, if it would be possible to image some 'songs of stars' for
their new African Cosmos Stellar Arts exhibition which runs through to December 9th 2012. We were delighted to have been asked. This is an
important milestone for the CymaScope and it will help the instrument gain
acceptance as a useful scientific tool in the world.
The atomic processes within the atomic furnace of stars create sounds as a
result of the high-energy collisions between atomic particles. These sounds
cause the starlight to vary minutely, tiny modulations that can be detected
by sensitive instrumentation, then demodulated, recreating the original
sounds in the laboratory. Analysis of the star sounds can help
asteroseismologists gain a better understanding of the atomic processes with
a given star.
The star sounds were processed by the following scientists:
Star: RR Lyrae
Dr Elisabeth Guggenberger, University of Vienna, Austria
Star: Chi Hydrae
Dr Conny Aerts and team, University of Leuven, Belgium.
Sound file created by: European Southern Observatory.
Michael Breger, Department of Astronomy, University of Texas, USA.
Dr Guenter Houdek and Dr Douglas Gough, University of Vienna, Austria.
The star sound files were fed into a CymaScope, which makes the
periodicities in the star sounds visible by imprinting them on the surface
of ultra pure water, transcribing the sound periodicities to periodic
wavelets, effectively rendering the sounds visible. The CymaScope imagery
was captured on-camera and sent to James Stuart Reid who provided
colorization and titles. The completed videos were then sent to the
Smithsonian where Michael Briggs used them to create the "Star Station," a
booth where visitors can experience the stars-sounds-made-visible for the
first time. Initial visitor reaction to the Star Station has been very
positive and children, in particular, love it. Inspiring children to explore
the field of cymatics is an important part of our ethos.
The Smithsonian web site article is here:
The 'star station' in the Smithsonian:
The Song of the Stars
One of the many
applications for the CymaScope lies in making visible sounds
from the interior of the earth, planets, stars, nebulae and galaxies.
have structure when manifest on a membrane and by making the structure
visible on the surface of water the nature of the geometry can help scientists
understand the processes at work within planetary and celestial bodies
University, in collaboration with the ESA and NASA, are studying the physics
of the Sun both deep within its core and in its outer corona and solar wind
regions,via the SOHO spacecraft data.
SOHO, which stands for "Solar and Heliospheric Observatory," was built in
Europe by a team led by prime contractor Matra Marconi Space under overall
management by ESA and was launched on December 2, 1995. The twelve instruments
on board were provided by European and American scientists. NASA was
responsible for the launch and is now responsible for mission operations.
Large radio dishes around the world, which form NASA's Deep Space Network, are
used for data downlink and commanding. Mission control is based at Goddard
Space Flight Center in Maryland.
The Stanford web site carries the full story together with some of the sounds
captured by the SOHO spacecraft:
The following video, posted with permission, was created by Stanford
University and explains the basic concepts of the song of the sun. The video
includes computer-modeled images that show sound bubbles within the sun's
images showing sound bubbles within the sun's outer regions
have imaged one of the SOHO sounds on the CymaScope. We were pleased to
discover that our result confirms the bubble-like structures in the sun's
outer regions. The CymaScope image shows 28 bubbles against 34 shown in the