Sounds of the Universe: Inclusive experience for visually impaired astronomers

audio universe

New project to allow blind or partially sighted individuals to ‘hear’ the universe is providing a more inclusive side to astronomy

This research is offering a way for visually impaired children in particular to get to touch with astronomy and maybe spark a lifetime interest in the topic.

What is the Audio Universe?

The Audio Universe: tour of the solar system is a new “sound-based educational astronomy show” created by astronomers from both Newcastle University and the University of Portsmouth and has a key aim of making exploring the universe a more universal and inclusive environment.

Powerful telescopes are required to see into deep space and explore the variety of light emitting objects in the universe – however, most of this light is not even visible to the human eye.

In order to gain a more detailed and complex view of the world around us, scientists have found that by using audio and engaging other senses we can gain a much more intricate view of the universe.

The show will take the audience on a journey inside a special spacecraft fitted with a ‘sonification machine’ that turns the light from objects in space into sounds. Each star is represented by one musical note with the colour of the star determining the pitch of the note and the brightness determining the volume of the note.

The Audio Universe states that “by representing objects or phenomena through sound, we hope to make new scientific discoveries and to increase accessibility in astronomy”

“by representing objects or phenomena through sound, we hope to make new scientific discoveries and to increase accessibility in astronomy”

Finding inclusion within astronomy

In creating this new resource, astronomers and researchers worked closely with members of the blind and visually impaired community.

Visually impaired astronomer Dr Nic Bonne from the University of Portsmouth, acted as a consultant on the project, providing first hand input and acted as an expert tour guide for the project. Dr Bonne is currently lead of the Tactile Universe public engagement project, which is developing resources to help vision impaired people learn about current topics in astronomy.

With the show being mainly aimed at school children aged 7-14 the ‘Audio Universe: tour of the Universe’ has been released online for free in an aim to reach all demographics. Providing all settings with access to the recordings, professional planetariums, viewing at home or shown in school for educational purposes, this new project will open doors for visually impaired individuals around the globe and will hopefully spark new interest in space and astronomy.

Find more information here, along with access to the space recordings.


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