Inspecting spectra with sound: proof-of-concept and extension to datacubes

James W. Trayford, R.~C. Hinz, M. Kavanagh Blatt, S. Dougherty, A. Girdhar

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We present a novel approach to inspecting galaxy spectra using sound, via their direct audio representation (‘spectral audification’). We discuss the potential of this as a complement to (or stand-in for) visual approaches. We surveyed 58 respondents who use the audio representation alone to rate 30 optical galaxy spectra with strong emission lines. Across three tests, each focusing on different quantities measured from the spectra (signal-to-noise ratio, emission-line width, and flux ratios), we find that user ratings are well correlated with measured quantities. This demonstrates that physical information can be independently gleaned from listening to spectral audifications. We note the importance of context when rating these sonifications, where the order examples are heard can influence responses. Finally, we adapt the method used in this promising pilot study to spectral datacubes. We suggest that audification allows efficient exploration of complex, spatially resolved spectral data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-392
Number of pages6
JournalRAS Techniques and Instruments
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2023


  • sonification
  • integral field spectroscopy
  • galaxies
  • data methods
  • Astrophysics - Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics
  • Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies
  • UKRI
  • STFC
  • ST/X004651/1
  • MR/V022830/1

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