TRAPPIST-1 is a planetary system, located 39 light years away from the Solar system, within the constellation of Aquarius. The parent star is an ultra-cool red dwarf star only slightly larger than Jupiter, and there are at least seven planets in orbit. Planets have sizes and masses comparable to the Earth and Venus.
And we learnt from Astronomer cum Musician Matt Russo that these planets are in harmonic resonance, ie. if their orbital period could be speeded up, they would produce good music. Check out Matt and his team’s amazing musical rendering of the orbits of these planets and the planetarium shows at Systems Sound.
Inspired by their work and the music files they shared with us, we decided to create a physical rendering of the Trappist-1’s Musical System: where the motion of the planets would be controlled by the music they generate and they would all synchronize for a grand finale! This would require making, learning musical notes, coding of midi files, Arduino, relays, led lights and lot more: a very challenging project. So we had to do it!
It took us over 3 weeks to build this project. We had to use our collective skills of measuring, hammering, wiring, coding, music, Arduino, python and using music synthesising software, and obviously physics! We had a lot of setbacks and frustrating experiences when things did not work and there were days of virtually no progress.
But at the end of it, we saw our Trappist-1 model getting the first light just a day before we were to debut it at the Ontario Science Centre at the first TechArtFair 2018 Toronto (Feb 17-19)! And it was amazing meeting Matt and Andrew: our inspiration behind the project.
— Matt Russo (@astromattrusso) February 17, 2018
The project attracted a lot of kids who were excited to learn about orbital motion of exoplanets and the link between music, flashing LEDs and orbital motion. Several hundred of children and their parents passed through our exhibit – excited and fascinated by the Universe around them! It proves that Science is very fascinating but we have to work on Science and project it in a manner which excites and encourages people to start talking about it and bring it in their everyday conversation.
And it was wonderful to have our displays next to System Sounds of Matt and Andrew and collaborating with them on this project. Together our light and music show on Trappist-1 was a big attraction and drew comments from far and wide!
The Making Process
We learnt a lot from this project and it has opened up insights about our musical universe. It makes the universe even more fascinating!