Radio Astronomy installation

An exhibition of sounds received by radio telescopes is a major component of the Radio Astronomy project. The installation is currently being installed at the NTT Inter Communications Center, Tokyo, Japan, and has previously been installed at two major art and technology festivals in Europe.

The initial exhition of Radio Astronomy was at ISEA2004 in Helsinki in August 2004. The second exhibition was at the Ars Electronica festival of art and technology in Linz, Austria, in September 2004

At these festivals listeners were able to encounter the sounds of space in three ways: – by visiting a sound installation on-site
– by tuning into an FM radio broadcast
– by visiting the live online radio broadcast

Radio Astronomy in Tokyo

Radio Astronomy is being installed at the NTT Inter Communications Center [ICC] in Tokyo as part of the exhibition, Open Nature.

The exhibition sounds are comprised the live output of radio telescopes and pre-recorded audio data from space probes and radio antenna. Listeners tuning in may hear the planets Jupiter and Saturn, radiation from the Sun, activity from far-off pulsars, the sounds of meteor trails in the Earthıs atmosphere and other astronomical phenomena.

Many of these sounds are fascinating from both an aesthetic and conceptual perspective, prompting comparisons with avant-garde electronic music. Yet very few people have heard these sounds, considering space to be silent, rather than the rich acoustic environment it turns out to be.

About Open Nature

Open Nature is curated by Yukiko Shikata. It focuses on the “nature” infiltrated in our daily lives through digital information environments, and aims to redefine it as an “open” concept that clears the way for a broader range of relationships between art and technology.
Seen through that filter of information technology, our perception of “nature” today extends to structures In topics coupled as oddly as “mankind and vegetation”, “climate and architecture”, “spheres and sounds”, this exhibition presents works and projects from the fields of art, design, and architecture. The displays interlink and convert in a creative way a variety of different forms of information from a challenging new perspective, and evidence sensitivity to social issues and new forms of perception established by digitalized information and communication environments.
Other artists in the show include: Knowbotic Research(.ch .de .at), Carsten Nicolai (.de), Marko Peljhan (.si), Robert Smithson (.us),, kingdom of piracy, Shiho Fukuhara +Georg Tremmel(.uk .jp .at) + many others.

Opening Our Ears to Space

In keeping with the exhibition’s themes, the Radio Astronomy installation at NTT Inter Communications Center [ICC] shows how technology has enabled us to listen to what would otherwise be inaudible.

Though weight of images associated with space is overwhelming, in popular culture, we have no sense of what space sounds like. Indeed, most people associate space with silence. Yet through the intervention of the technology of radio, we are able to hear radiation from many astronomical sources, including the Sun, planets and distant stars. But despite this, very few people have ever heard space. Hardly any of us could describe the sound of a single planet or star.

Radio Astronomy is an attempt to address this, by publicly broadcasting sounds intercepted from radio telescopes. Radio Astronomy will enable listeners to tune into to different celestial frequencies, hearing planets, stars, nebulae, and the constant hiss of cosmic noise. It will reveal the sonic character of objects in our galaxy, and in the process perhaps make these phenomena more tangible and comprehensible. The project is indeed radio astronomy in a literal sense – a radio station devoted to broadcasting sounds from space.

Broadcasting Sounds from Space

r a d i o q u a l i a think of large radio telescopes as radio receivers.

Institut de RadioAstronomie Millimétrique, France & Spain

Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Centre, Latvia

Very Large Array (VLA), NRAO, New Mexico, USA

Unlike normal transistor radios tuned to regular commercial radio broadcasts, these receivers are listening to signals being transmitted from some of natureıs most striking phenomena – planets and stars. Radio Astronomy connects broadcast radio – the transmission of audible information – and the science of radio astronomy – the observation and analysis of radiation from astrophysical objects. The signals from space are converted into sound and then broadcast on-line and on-air. Radio Astronomy presents natureıs own radio, broadcasting the constantly evolving sound of the Universe.

Open Nature, Deep Time

Visitors to the NTT Intercommunication Center [ICC] can be immersed in these astronomical sounds by experiencing the Radio Astronomy installation. Live streams of meteors entering the Earthıs atmosphere, collide with the constantly changing sound of the Sun, ever emitting hissing solar flares. The sound of the Cassini spacecraft passing through the rings of Saturn, is juxtaposed with live sound of the planet Jupiter and itıs interaction with its moon Io. The installation also includes the sound of the Huygens spacecraft during its historic descent onto the Saturnian moon of Titan.

Alongside these contemporary and live sounds, some of the most ancient sounds in nature are detectable the Radio Astronomy installation. Spinning neutron stars, or pulsars, were discovered by radio astronomers. Some pulsars are far older than the earth itself. By the time the metronomic beat of a pulsar reaches our Earth-bound instruments, it is over a billion years old. Even more ancient is the residual radiation from the beginning of the Universe. The shrill hiss of cosmic microwave background radiation left over from the Big Bang is without question the oldest known radio broadcast, beginning its long transmission fifteen million years ago.

Radio Astronomy is an attempt to depict some of these complex audio events within the immersive physical space.

Venue and Opening Hours

NTT Inter Communications Center [ICC]
Tokyo Opera City Tower 4F, 3-20-2 Nishishinjuku
Tokyo 163-1404

Opening Hours:
29.04.05 – 03.07.05
1000 – 1800, daily