A Universe of Sound

Sagittarius A* / Galactic Center Sonification

For the first time, NASA released a sonification simultaneously with news results associated with two of its telescopes, the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The data cover the region near the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, is barely seen in the lower right-hand of the visual image that contains X-ray data from IXPE (red-orange) and Chandra (purple). In the sonification of these data, the cursor begins at Sagittarius A* and moves out as a growing circle toward the center of the image. As it encounters IXPE data, the volume of the notes changes according to the brightness of the X-rays. The brighter the Chandra data, the higher the musical pitch and vice versa. When the cursor travels over a large patch of X-rays both from Chandra and IXPE in the center of the image, a rushing sound is heard. This region is where scientists find a “light echo,” a high-energy relic left behind from an eruption from Sagittarius A* about 200 years ago..

G Center X-ray Composite G Center X-ray, Chandra only G Center X-ray, IXPE only


X-ray (Chandra only)

X-ray (IXPE only)

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The Chandra sonifications were led by the Chandra X-ray Center (CXC), with input from NASA's Universe of Learning. The sustained collaboration was driven by visualization scientist Dr. Kimberly Arcand (CXC), astrophysicist Dr. Matt Russo and musician Andrew Santaguida (both of the SYSTEM Sounds project). For other sonifications, please see their linked pages.

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