ALMA will be at the SonarSound Santiago festival

ALMA will be at the SonarSound Santiago festival

3 December, 2015 / Read time: 4 minutes

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the Department of Astronomy of the Universidad de Chile (DAS) in conjunction with Sónar+D and Corporación Chilena de Video, invite musicians and artists to work with sounds created from the observations of the most powerful radio telescope in the world. The event forms part of the SonarSound Santiago festival and will take place this Saturday, December 5 from 1:00 to 9:30 pm in the MarketLab space at the Suricato Hangars (former Los Cerrillos Airport, Pedro Aguirre Cerda 6100, Cerrillos).

“Both sound and light behave as waves. However, they have different properties. For example, sound requires a material medium such as air to propagate, whereas light can propagate in a vacuum. This allows us to capture light from remote corners of the Universe but not sound,” explains Antonio Hales, ALMA astronomer who participated in the process. “For this exercise, we use wave similarities between light and sound to transpose the radio waves received by ALMA into sound waves, which can be used by artists and musicians,” adds Hales. “The excellent sensitivity of the observatory antennas enabled us to reach greater depth in the sounds obtained (tonalities), which translates into increased diversity for those who occupy them.”

Hales worked with Ricardo Finger, electrical engineer from the Universidad de Chile, to process radio waves captured by ALMA and transform them into sound waves, attempting to keep the information from the original waves intact. The signals processed come from the ALMA public data archives, where the samples are organized into a true sound library, or soundbank, for display and use at Sónar+D.

“I am pleased to be able to translate the observations from ALMA into a format that can be used in other fields, in particular music, one of my preferred art forms,” says Finger. “It is also interesting to note that this translation is not a free interpretation, but rather a transformation made with the utmost mathematical rigor, ensuring that the resulting sounds are consistent with the signals observed by ALMA.”

For Enrique Rivera, one of the event organizers, “'ALMA Sounds' is one of the major milestones for Sónar+D, resulting from a search to combine music and astronomy. The quest for frequencies with radio telescopes is similar to the quest that a musician makes with sound... it is the basis of an astronomer's exploration, but it can also be transposed into an artistic field, applying all of this technology to the development of art, even though it may not have been the motive behind the creation of these technologies.”

Paloma Chicharro, artistic director of Sonar+D, poses that “participants of this congress will experience a proposal that is based on the compilation of frequencies converted to sound, which generate an immersive sound installation, creating an unpMarketLabrecedented experience in Chile and its potential for amplification to the rest of the world, thanks to this important international festival. Visitors can learn more about the contents of this project at the website, which combines both the sounds interpreted by astronomers as well as the sound works of diverse musicians who have already used them, such as Fantasna, Fernanda Arrau, Dj Raff, Daniel Klauser and others.”

Sónar+D is the technological section of the festival that originated in Barcelona, and will host talks, installations and meetings related to creativity, technology and business. In addition to ALMA, there will be open spaces by Santiago Maker Space and interactive installations by artist Iván Navarro.


  • Compilation of sounds captured by ALMA and the sound works of musicians who have used these sounds here. (


Valeria Foncea

Education and Public Outreach Officer
Joint ALMA Observatory
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56 2 467 6258
Cell: +56 9 75871963
Email: [email protected]