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Take a listen to a Martian sunrise / mnn

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From Gustav Holst's orchestral suite "The Planets" to any John Williams composition for "Star Wars" to the Steve Miller Band's "Space Cowboy," space has inspired the musically inclined for centuries. But space can also create music, and in honor of the Mars rover Opportunity seeing its 5,000th Martian sunrise, scientists created a tune not just inspired by the sunrise but by using data from the photograph of the sunrise itself.

The video above was created by Domenico Vicinanza of Anglia Ruskin University and Genevieve Williams from the University of Exeter. The tones you hear were developed by scanning the image from left to right, pixel by pixel, according to a statement released by Anglia Ruskin University. Pitches and melodies were then assigned to things like brightness, terrain elevation and color.

For instance, the quieter portions of the piece are a result of the dark background of the image while the higher-pitched sounds are related to the sun's brightness.

To create this music of the spheres, Vicinanza and Williams used a process called data sonification. When we typically want to represent data, we use words to explain or charts and graphs to illustrate. Some scientists and researchers, however, are looking for alternative ways to make data consumable, and data sonification does that. So instead of lines on a chart, we get pitches, tones and melodies.

At first, data presented in this way can result in something abstract, as if someone made a not-so-great remix of a Philip Glass or Terry Riley composition. And that's normal, according to Jack Jamieson, a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto. Writing for Open Shelf, Jamieson explains that many of us are simply "not used to decoding this sort of abstract information from non-speech sound, and the process takes some getting used to."

Take a listen to a Martian sunrise via mnn