Hearing is Believing – Sound People speak to Star People

For blind and visually impaired astronomers, sonification of data creates opportunities for research and outreach. This Focus issue of Nature Asteonomy Journal lays out the benefits of complementing vision-based data analysis tools with data sonification.

The collection of articles sprung from the Audible Universe workshop in 2021, which convened astronomers and sound engineers — until then two disparate communities with a shared passion.

Meeting Report by Chris Harrison and colleagues discusses sonification tools for enhancing scientific discovery and accessibility to astronomy research and education.

In their Q&A, Jake Noel-Storr and Michelle Willebrands interview four blind or visually impaired researchers working in astronomy research, education and outreach: Nicolas Bonne, Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, Garry Foran and Enrique Perez Montero.

The Perspective titled Sonification and sound design for astronomy research, education and public engagement by Anita Zanella and co-workers then discusses in greater detail the benefits of sound, including nearly 100 sound-based astronomy projects, in context.

Zanella, A., Harrison, C.M., Lenzi, S. et al. Sonification and sound design for astronomy research, education and public engagement. Nat Astron 6, 1241–1248 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-022-01721-z

In the second Perspective article titled Sound Experts’ Perspectives on Astronomy Sonification Projects, Nicolas Misdariis leads a team of sound experts in sound perception/cognition, sound design, psychoacoustics and experimental psychology in setting out the basic elements of sonification, with its diversity of tools, applications and users, from perception to experience. Together with Sandra Pauletto I contributed to the section titled Sound Design and Sonification which describes a design oriented approach to sonic information design.

Misdariis, N., Özcan, E., Grassi, M. et al. Sound experts’ perspectives on astronomy sonification projects. Nat Astron 6, 1249–1255 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-022-01821-w