Friday 24 October 2008

The Sound of Stars

Parisians are traditionally thought of as being egocentrical with little interest in what is happening elsewhere in France let alone the wider world, but there is one place* in the city where the whole raison d'être is to focus on things outwards and upwards; the Observatoire de Paris. Today they are publishing a fascinating insight into the mysterious world of music in space.

What is the aural equivalent of invisibility and is there a word for such a concept? Professor Eric Michel and his team at the Observatory of Paris-LESIA-CNRS have been studying data received from the CoRoT space telescope, and using a concept known as stellar seismology have been able to let us hear the sounds that stars are making.

This music is based on the pulsating energy at the interior of the star and is a kind of throbbing, rhythmic palpitation. Of course, the scientists are not simply modern day equivilants of Gustav Holst, and there are valauble scientific lessons to be learned from 'listening' to stars. In fact, it is a technique which is becoming increasingly popular amongst astronomers as it gives an additional dimension to our knowledge of the universe.

I'm no scientist and I wouldn't want to insult anybody by attempting to go into any more depth on the subject, so if you are interested you'll need to get this week's edition of Science magazine! If like me though you're simply interested in the curious world of noise in space, you can listen to the strange music here and here.

Further Information
* The Observatoire de Paris is actually three buildings; one in the 14th arrondissement, one in the suburb of Meudon and one at Nançay in the Cher region of France.

The observatory in Paris is a very interesting, historic building and is occasionally open to visitors. In the eternal battles between England and France, it famously lost out to Greenwich in London as the site that should be recognised as the prime meridian of the world. Naturally however, the French ignored this judgement and continued to refer to Paris as the meridian for another 27 years until 1911. For more information on this building and some interesting photos, visit Peter's blog.


Anonymous said...
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PeterParis said...

... and as a compensation to give up the French meridian, the Briitsh promised to go for the metric system!! (I made a post about the Obseravtory and the French meridian about a year ago (

I wonder what our earth sounds like form similar distances.

Very interesting again!

Adam said...

Ah thanks Peter. I didn't know that you'd done a reportage on the building before. I've moved the link up!

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