How Habitable Planets Make Music To Save Themselves From Destruction

How Habitable Planets Make Music To Save Themselves From Destruction


Back in February of 2017 a European team and NASA announced the discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 system with seven Earth sized planets, several of which may have the right temperatures to host liquid water. This got the entire planetary community excited as these are prime candidates in the search for life. There was only one problem, when the team simulated the system planets quickly started crashing into each other. That’s where we come in. By simulating the system’s formation and obtaining self-consistent orbital parameters that are difficult to constrain directly, we found that the system’s unprecedented clockwork configuration can keep the system stable for as long as we could run our supercomputer simulations. It turns out that for every two orbits of the outermost planet, the next one in does three, the next one in four, then six, nine, fifteen, and twenty-four. That’s when we realized that this remarkable pattern would produce striking rhythms and harmonies if we could translate the planet’s motion into music. So we used our numerical simulation to play a note for every orbit of the outer planet. The next planet produces a perfect fifth where the higher note has three cycles for every two of the lower note. What you’re hearing are the actual orbital frequencies sped up into the human hearing range. You might notice that some of the notes are not exactly in tune, that’s actually because the system has been losing its initial tuning over the last several billion years due to the same types of tidal forces that the moon exerts on the Earth. Next we added a drum for each time a planet passes its outer neighbor. That’s when they really communicate with each other gravitationally, keeping themselves locked in a tight repeating pattern. Finally we took the stars observed brightness variations and sped those up so you can hear the sound of sun spots and solar flares. It seems some how poetic that the same clockwork configuration that allows us to generate this great music can at the same time be responsible for the system remaining stable long enough for us to see it today.

5 Comments

  • Robert Douglas says:

    Any way to see how our system sounds? 😀

  • Sue Claxton says:

    reminds me of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroplankton

  • University of Toronto Scarborough says:

    Love it! Well done.

  • john tone says:

    Our own solar system spans 10+ octaves of oscillation. We would need an extremely hi-fidelity reproduction system to play the music from the Sun to the Oort Cloud.

    But I want to hear it!

  • jason geringer says:

    this is super cool, i wonder what other patterns are out there. Particularly from quazars. If there is a pattern of matter dropping into a black hole it will be seen in it's disc and possibly in it's polar jets. I wonder if that would qualify as information going through a black hole? Didn't Stephan Hawking have a bet or something about that? lol

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