“Hearing” Satellites via NASA’s Spiral Shell

Mar 26, 2017

David Delgado, one of the visual strategists at NASA’s JPL, reminds us of the all the times we picked up a shell and put it to our ear and “heard” the sound of the ocean. This is one of the reasons he and fellow creator Dan Goods—along with the New York design firm StudioKCA—chose the nautilus shape for their Orbit Pavilion, currently on exhibit at the Huntington Gardens.

Nineteen Earth Satellites plus the International Space Station were given their own “voices” depending on its particular mission. A crashing of a wave, a tree branch moving, or a frog croaking are examples, which are emitted as the satellites pass overhead—in real time. Inside this shell, the Orbit, is a “lattice of speakers representing the satellites motion across the horizon, replicating the sound up above our heads,” narrates Aric Allen (watch video below). The satellite Cloudsat tracks weather clouds, so its “voice” is represented by desert wind. The only human voice is of a choir representing the Space Station, “the only object being tracked that has humans inside its orbiting craft over 200 miles above us.”

While sound artist Shane Myrbeck of Oakland created the individual voices, he also created a one-minute compilation “representing the orbits of these satellites over 24 hours.” A satellite circles the globe every 90 minutes.

In an interview with Diana Thompson at the Huntington blog, Goods said the location within the Huntington gardens is perfect.

Part of the Orbit’s message is ecology. We love the fact that Orbit is in a natural setting at The Huntington, surrounded by botanical collections from around the world. Then there’s the connection to the library collection. It’s amazing to think that rare books by early astronomers Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler are so close by.

The Orbit Pavilion’s “stay” at The Huntington has been extended until September 4, 2017.


NASA’s Orbit Pavilion at The Huntington, 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino 91108. Hours: Wednesday-Monday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $23, adults; $19, seniors and students; $10, youth age 4-11; free for children under 4 and for members. Tel: 1.627.405.2100.






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