Sonification Project Improves Science Engagement

The SYSTEM Sounds project produced 9 Sonification videos (True Love Waits, Saturn Harp, Jupiter’s Moons, Black Widow Pulsar, Black Widow Pulsar (Narrated), Music of K2-187 Exoplanets, Light Curves of K2-187, Entire Light Curve of K2-187, Moon Impacts). The videos have been viewed over 185 000 times on YouTube and the project was featured on, Virgin Radio, and in The Outline. They also produced 2 online applications (Saturn Harp and Jupiter’s Moons) with the former receiving over 600 000 plays when it was featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day. The source code for these apps is available on GitHub. Thanks to the exposure the videos received, the team is working regularly with NASA on astronomical sonifications.

Some of the new sounds were integrated into a sound-based planetarium show Our Musical Universe at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics. The show was featured on several national Canadian outlets such as CBC Metro Morning, The National Post, and the Globe and Mail. It has become the Dunlap Institute’s most successful show with over 1000 people attending in 45 sold out shows. It was also featured in a TEDx talk by SYSTEM Sounds’ co-founder Matt Russo which was selected to be hosted by, receiving 300 000 times in its first day. The team expanded an idea for an OAD-funded video into an entire 12 hour exhibit for Nuit Blanche Toronto called One Sky. Over 4500 people visited the exhibit which provided a musical experience of the real time night sky inside a large planetarium dome.

The project reached over 5500 people in person and 800 000 online. It sparked curiosity and interest in astronomy by presenting astronomical data in a novel and engaging way and facilitated people’s exploration of the connections between music and astronomy while developing their understanding of each. It helped establish sonification as a valuable tool for engagement in science and for accessibility.