The Music of the Spheres

Han Solo, image courtesy Wikipedia

Han Solo, image courtesy Wikipedia

Working on a science-fiction short and surprising myself with how much I’m enjoying it. One of my writers’ group last night commented that a character was “a mix of a symphony conductor and Han Solo” — and I’m pretty happy with that description.

I went searching today for some title ideas, and I happened across this nifty toy — tool — program — quest — thing, a computer code meant to blend mathematics and light and sound into a literal music of the spheres.

The Wheel of Stars is a strangely hypnotic incarnation of star data, where each moving star is respresented by both a point of light and an audio note.

I used this information to plot the brightest stars, and cause them to revolve about Polaris (the North Star) very slowly, as the stars appear to do. Like the night sky, this is a sidereal time clock — it takes nearly 24 hours for the stars to fully rotate. You’ll notice some familiar constellations, such as the Big Dipper in there. As the stars cross zero and 180 degrees, indicated by the center line, the clock plays an individual note, or chime for each star. The pitch of the chime is based on the star’s BV measurement (which roughly corresponds to color or temperature). The volume is based on the star’s magnitude, or apparent brightness, and the stereo panning is based on the position on the screen (use headphones to hear it better).

Crazy, man, crazy. Play it.

Astronomical Clock (Astronomical Dial), Prague...

Astronomical Clock (Astronomical Dial), Prague, Czech Republic (Photo credit: Grufnik)

Astronomy is one of those things that I think is absolutely fascinating but unreachable. Most of astronomy is wrapped up in really unfathomably big numbers and major physics concepts which were kind of skipped over in class. So I have only the vaguest knowledge of it, but I know just enough to know it’s cool.

I’m still not solid on a title; I like the concept of the music of the spheres, but I’m not sure it works as an actual title. But at least I found some cool stuff to browse while I was allegedly doing productive writer-ly things.


Intensely readable and full of warm fuzzies and international intrigue as well as truly interesting astronomy, this is an astronomer’s memoir of the search for new planets and the resulting debate over the fate of little Pluto. Very enjoyable.

affiliate link

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *