Deep space probe, interstellar explorer, and envoy to alien civilisations, Voyager 1 has already racked up an impressive resume to which songwriter can now be added. Using data from the unmanned spacecraft, Dr Domenico Vicinanza, of Anglia Ruskin University and GEANT, and Dr Genevieve Williams, of the University of Exeter, have created a musical composition to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the pathfinding mission.

In 1619, Johannes Kepler published his treatise Harmonices Mundi, in which he combined his astronomical data about the orbit of the planets with his ideas about the geometric harmony of the universe to create what is commonly known as the Music of the Spheres. On November 13 at the NASA Booth at the SC17 Supercomputing Conference in Denver, Colorado, a 21st century equivalent will make its world premiere.

The three-minute number was created using a process known as data sonification, where the data about protons, alpha particles, and heavier nuclei in space from Voyager's Low-Energy Charged Particle (LECP) telescope and spacecraft trajectory were used to create melody, harmony and orchestration. The information was collected by the probe from 1977 until this month with each 26-day period converted into one note. The composition includes the moment when Voyager entered interstellar space in 2012.

The solemn main melody played by the second violins is based on the cosmic ray count, which changes over to flute, piccolo and glockenspiel at the 2012 mark. Meanwhile, piano and French horns double the violins to mark the flybys of Jupiter and Saturn, where the cosmic ray count fluctuated as they passed close by the gas giants. The passage through the heliopause is a key change from C major to E flat major with an alternation of orchestration and harmony.

"Our orchestra score is more than just inspired by one of the most successful space missions of all time, it is shaped entirely by Voyager 1's incredible journey," says Vicinanza. "Data sonification can play an important role in helping to share scientific discoveries and we hope that by converting 40 years of data into music, listeners will be able to hear aspects of Voyager 1's journey that are perhaps not so obvious when looking at graphs of data."

Voyager 1 is one of the two deep space probes sent by NASA to study the outer planets and the frontiers of the Solar System. The 722 -kg (1,590-lb) spacecraft was launched on September 5, 1977 and is powered by three radiothermal generators. In 1979, it flew by Jupiter and in 1980 it visited Saturn. As it did so, the giant planets sent Voyager on a one-way slingshot trajectory toward interstellar space at a speed of 17.043 km/s (38,120 mph) relative to the Sun.

An excerpt of the Voyager 1 music can be heard in the video below.

Source: Anglia Ruskin University