Pondering “what does the solar system sound like?” seems akin to a tree-falling-in-the-woods rhetorical question. But for visual designer Luke Twyman it’s an opportunity to have a little fun with astronomy and music.
SolarBeat is an addictive and oddly soothing web application that uses the orbital frequencies of our solar system to activate sounds. Think of it like a music box on your screen. Twyman designed the application so that when each of the “planets” passes over a certain point, it strikes a tone.
Presuming you paid attention in science class, you should know that Mercury revolves around the sun at a much quicker rate than all of the other planets and as you move further out, it takes longer and longer for each planet to complete the loop. Earth has 365 days in a year, Mercury makes the trip in just 87 days, and it takes the sluggish Pluto 248 years per revolution. Seeing the it mapped out visually makes the difference all the more dramatic and way more engaging than a standard school lecture.
Twyman originally designed SolarBeat in 2010, and updated it this year in honor of NASA’s Dawn spacecraft making it into dwarf planet Ceres‘s orbit. He added more controls over the tones and made them a little crisper. You can test your mixing skills and tweak the bass, flutter, and echo and also pick different scales to play.
But to answer the initial question, Twyman’s solar system sounds like an ambient jam with some droning low tones, a choral of mids, plus a few sublime pings when Pluto and Neptune finally inch around. Check out the application here.