NASA Opportunity Mars Rover data sonification

A group of scientists from Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Exeter in the U.K. have taken a photo by NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover and turned it into music.

The picture itself marks a milestone as it is the rover’s 5000th photo of a Martian sunrise (that’s a little over 14 years in Earth time). The actual piece was created using a technique called data sonification, which assigns pitch and melody to each pixel in the image based on factors including brightness and color.

What ended up being produced was pretty much exactly what you’d expect a sunrise to sound like. The darker areas produced a slow, peaceful harmony while the brighter areas provided higher-pitched melodic tones. Overall, it’s a soothing piece of music that really does seem like something to wake up to an Earth sunrise to. It is the same sun after all.

Dr. Domenico Vicinanza, of Anglia Ruskin University, explained why the project was important, data sonification “is a really flexible technique to explore science and it can be used in several domains, from studying certain characteristics of planet surfaces and atmospheres, to analyzing weather changes or detecting volcanic eruptions.”

Dr. Vicinanza and Dr. Genevieve Williams, of the University of Exeter, will be presenting the entire piece, titled Mars Soundscapes, at the Supercomputing SC18 Conference in Dallas. But for now, the two-minute clip they released will have to do.