- Title: Near-blind astronomer reveals the 'sounds of space' for the visually impaired
- Date: 24th December 2019
- Summary: PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND, UK (RECENT) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH, PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT AND OUTREACH FELLOW AT THE INSTITUTE OF COSMOLOGY AND GRAVITATION, DOCTOR NICOLAS BONNE, SAYING: "Listening to that sound, and this was in full 3D as well, so being played through six surround speakers, hearing those two galaxies whoosh past each other and gradually get closer and closer and closer, that was one of the clearest senses I've ever had of that process going on."
- Embargoed: 7th January 2020 11:38
- Keywords: European Southern Observatory NASA Space astronomy astronomy show for the blind stars
- Location: PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND, UK / IN SPACE
- City: PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND, UK / IN SPACE
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Science,Space Exploration
- Reuters ID: LVA004BBC3C63
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:"Hearing those two galaxies whoosh past each other," Doctor Nicolas Bonne of the University of Portsmouth told Reuters, "that was one of the clearest senses I've ever had of that process going on."
Dr Bonne, born visually impaired but not quite blind, is listening to the sound of space - real astronomical datasets turned in to audio or what he calls the 'sonification' of astronomy.
"Here is what it would sound like if we could listen to all of the stars that you can see just using the naked eye appearing above the Very Large Telescope, which is an ESO (European Southern Observatory) installation in Chile," Bonne, Public Engagement and Outreach Fellow at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, told Reuters.
The data for this audio file was recorded as the sun set and the stars appeared over the ESO on September 13, 2019. Each sound represents the appearance of a star, bright or dim, blue or red, speeded up and tied to its original position in the night sky.
The sounds were created for 'A Dark Tour of the Universe', an astronomy show unlocking the mystery and beauty of deep space for the blind and visually impaired for the first time.
"Astronomy is just such a visual subject and it's something that visually impaired people can find really hard to access or get interested in because the resources just don't exist to allow them to learn about it and to see all those beautiful pictures that everyone else is able to see," Bonne said.
A Dark Tour of the Universe also offers a tactile experience of the Universe by using 3D printed models of astronomical images.
"By running your fingertips over the top of this you're feeling the image in exactly the same way your eyes would be seeing that image. So you're feeling the bits that are bright, feeling the bits that are dim and you can build an overall picture of the shape," Bonne said.
"You can kind of think of this as a slightly more complicated version of braille. So where braille is single level this has a lot more levels to it but you are still using your fingertips," Bonne said.
The Tactile Universe is already available throughout Britain, for schools and others to engage with science. And 'A Dark Tour of the Universe' show will eventually also be made publicly available, so people can listen to space from computers and tablets at home.
(Production: Stuart McDill)
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