browse projects:

Radio Astronomy

live audio

Radio Astronomy is an art and science project which broadcasts sounds intercepted from space live on the internet and on the airwaves.
The project is a collaboration between r a d i o q u a l i a, and radio telescopes located throughout the world. Together we are creating 'radio astronomy' in the literal sense - a radio station devoted to broadcasting audio from our cosmos.

Radio Astronomy has three parts:

  • a sound installation
  • a live on-air radio transmission
  • a live online radio broadcast - launching 02.09.04

Listeners will hear the acoustic output of radio telescopes live. The content of the live transmission will depend on the objects being observed by partner telescopes. On any given occasion listeners may hear the planet Jupiter and its interaction with its moons, radiation from the Sun, activity from far-off pulsars or other astronomical phenomena.

Broadcasting Sounds from Space
Radio Astronomy correlates the processes associated with broadcast radio - the transmission of audible information, and the processes of radio astronomy - the observation and analysis of radiated signals from planets, stars and other astrophysical objects. The work synthesizes these two areas. The signals from planets and stars are converted into audio and then broadcast on-line and on-air. The project is a literal interpretation of the term, "radio astronomy". It is a radio station broadcasting audio from space.

r a d i o q u a l i a   consider radio telescopes to be radio receivers, which are listening to radio signals being transmitted from planets and stars. Thinking of radio in this way radically enlarges the concept. Radio Astronomy is located within this expanded field of radio.

Many of the sounds emitted by these objects are fascinating from both an aesthetic and conceptual perspective, prompting comparisons with avant-garde music and electronic sound art. Yet very few people have heard these sounds, considering space to be silent, rather than the rich acoustic environment it turns out to be.
Listening To Space
The weight of imagery associated with space is overwhelming. We can all look at space, in pictures on television, in books, and on the internet, but in popular culture, we have no sense of what sounds are evident in space. In film, on television, and indeed in documentary, space is usually depicted as an aural void. And indeed, most people associate space with silence.
This is in fact a misnomer. A great percentage of our scientific understanding of space has been derived by listening to space through radio telescopes. The data we glean from listening to space is every bit as significant and important to our comprehension of the Universe as more traditionally understood optical observation.

Even the scientific perception of radio astronomy is largely visual. Despite the fact that objects are observed and recorded using radio, their emissions are represented using graphs, diagrams, graphic visualisations and other visual media. Many objects, do however, emit radiation in the audible band, making it possible to hear the Universe. Space, as it turns out, is a very noisy place, with each planet, star, nebula and cluster, containing its own sonic signature. And yet, very few people have ever heard space. Hardly any of us could describe the sound of a single planet or star.

Radio Astronomy is an attempt to address this, by publicly broadcasting sounds intercepted from radio telescopes. Radio Astronomy enables listeners to tune into to different celestial frequencies, hearing planets, stars, nebulae, and the constant hiss of cosmic noise. It reveals the sonic character of objects in our galaxy, and in the process perhaps make these phenomena more tangible and comprehensible. The project is indeed radio astronomy in the strict sense - a radio station devoted to broadcasting sounds from space.

In cooperation with electrolobby  - Ars Electronica Festival 2004.


Hosted by:

r a d i o q u a l i a


Adam Hyde
Honor Harger