I grew up dreaming about stars and spacesuits. One of my favorite astronomical memories (yes, I have several) is of my mother awakening me in the middle of the night so I could see the comet Hale–Bopp streak across the sky at its peak. Given that this extraterrestrial extracurricular activity was one of many, it probably comes as no surprise to learn then that I have a dog named Nova (as in supernova), that I have a tattoo of my favorite nebula (Thor’s Helmet) or that I frequent space-related events and exhibits.

One exhibit in particular has recently caught my attention. In May of 2015, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory debuted a new exhibit at the World Science Festival in New York. After a successful showing there, the exhibit was moved across the country. It opened at The Huntington in San Marino, California, on October 29, 2016. The name of this exhibit? Orbit Pavilion.

Orbit Pavilion is a 30-foot wide outdoor installation resembling a metal conch shell. Visitors enter by walking through the outermost whorl of the shell structure, and are greeted by the sounds of satellites as they pass overhead.

While there are thousands of satellites currently in space, the installation focuses on the International Space Station (ISS) and 19 Earth satellites. Each satellite completes an orbit around Earth in about 90 minutes. Orbit Pavilion has assigned each of these satellites a unique sound, like crashing waves, desert wind blowing, a human choir and thunder. Each sound is a sonic interpretation of the mission of that particular satellite.

When a satellite is orbiting nearby The Huntington, its sound goes live in Orbit Pavilion. Visitors listen to the “voices” of the satellites in real time. There is also a one-minute song compacted from 24 hours’ worth of satellite sounds.

David Delgado, one of the collaborators on the exhibit, has said that the overall goal is to humanize satellites. “We wanted to give the satellites a voice,” he said, “so that when they pass overhead, basically, they could reach out and say hi to us.”

Orbit Pavilion is on display through February 27, 2017. Here’s hoping it comes to Boston next!

Did You Know?

About 68 percent of the universe consists of dark energy and about 27 percent consists of dark matter. That means everything on Earth and everything we have been able to see and observe in space is only about 5 percent of the universe. Is the theory of gravity wrong? Is there some undiscovered dynamic fluid out there? Are exotic particles responsible? All I know is that there is so much more to discover and I hope I’m around to witness the answer to these questions.

Image credit: @StudioKCA