Quirks & Quarks

Jun 11: Music from the cosmos, thunderbird extinction, Hubble gets the big picture and more…

Invasive species and climate change and the natural history of sound.

Invasive species and climate change and the natural history of sound.

The Tycho supernova remnant is one of the astronomical phenomenon that has been turned into music by the "Universe of Sound" project team.
The Tycho supernova remnant is one of the astronomical phenomenon that has been turned into music by the "Universe of Sound" project team. (NASA)

On this week's episode of Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald:

Astronomers make the music of the cosmos, by turning data into sound

During the pandemic, scientists with NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory found a new way to connect people – especially those who are blind or partly blind –  with the beauty of space. Kim Arcand, a visualization scientist for NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory at the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard and Smithsonian, and Matt Russo, a University of Toronto astrophysicist, translated data captured by telescopes into musical sounds. The result is 'sonic visualizations' of galaxy clusters, supernovas, black holes and more. The project is called A Universe of Sound.

VIDEO: A sonification of a black hole from the Universe of Sound project.

Evidence suggests that humans omletted Australian Thunderbirds to extinction

The earliest human inhabitants of Australia ate the eggs of the two-metre tall thunder bird, which may have contributed to the giant flightless bird's extinction 50,000 years ago. Researchers confirmed that egg shell fragments found in human fire pits likely came from thunderbird eggs. To researchers like Beatrice Demarchi, a biomolecular archaeologist from the University of Turin, this indicates that humans played a role in the bird's demise. Her research was published in the journal PNAS.

Sketch of a Genyornis, or thunder bird, a 2 metre tall, 250 kg animal that lived in Australia until soon after humans arrived. (Nobu Tamura)

New Hubble image proves there's life in the old space telescope

The spanking new James Webb telescope may be the new kid on the block, but a gigantic panoramic image of the cosmos in the near-infrared just produced by the 31 year old Hubble telescope is what astronomers are excited about this week. It's the largest near-infrared image ever taken, and captures the evolution of distant galaxies going back 10 billion years. The work which will be published in the Astrophysical Journal was led by Lamiya Mowla, Dunlap Fellow at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto.

A photo of the universe, showing countless bright stars and galaxies.
A patch of sky imaged by 3D-DASH, showing the brightest and rarest objects of the universe such as monster galaxies. (Gabe Brammer)

Why removing invasive species can help ecosystems battle climate change

A large scale study of ecosystems around the world suggests that the best way to protect many of them from the impacts of climate change like drought and rising temperatures is to make sure they're left undisturbed by invasive species. A recent study published in PNAS by ecologist Jenica Allen and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, including  showed that invasive species often are more damaging to an ecosystem than the impacts of climate change, and removing the disruptive influence of invasive species left ecosystems much better able to handle climate disruption.

A paleontologist reconstructs what Earth sounded like through its long history

The next best thing to traveling back in time to learn about the past via a time machine is to pay a mental visit using fossil evidence. Paleontologist Michael Habib from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County takes us on a journey to explore the evolution of how the sounds of life  arose on Earth.

Paleontologists can use fossils to not only figure out what life in the past would have looked like, but also for what they would have sounded like. (Getty Images)

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