'Rock' Music

This free online synth generates its presets from real-time asteroid data

We're not entirely sure how asteroidblock.io works just yet, but that doesn't make it any less fun.

3D rendering of the asteroid Apophis passing near the Earth

Sound waves may be unable to travel through space (vacuums are funny that way), but we can still make a pretty good racket down here based on what we are able to observe up there. For years, NASA and other researchers have released a number of “sonification” projects in which various data sets from stars, planets, moons, and even cosmic dust can be converted into fascinating, ambient auditory landscapes. Now, an amateur project is allowing anyone to craft their own soundtracks using interstellar objects.

If you head over to asteroidblock.io, you can check out the beta release of a browser-based synthesizer whose presets can be determined by the real-time information of an asteroid of your choice. It is a great rabbit hole to fall down.

“That last track was fire, bro!”MARK GARLICK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

A little vague on details right now — Okay, so we’ll level with you: We’re not exactly sure how asteroidblock.io truly works. The brief introduction upon first loading the synthesizer describes the program as “a web-based, interactive, atmospheric pad synthesizer which queries NASA's asteroid API, using live proximity data to throttle initial parameters of the synth.” From there, you simply opt for one of the many asteroids available within the dropdown menu, and get to doing your best Brian Eno impersonation.

The various presets are all adjustable from there, albeit a bit buggy. Give ‘em a break, though, it’s currently in beta. You can also select from a number of synths, adjust the tempo, and even save your synthpad creations.

Just make sure that, if you do end up saving your jams, you do so to this open-source, hackable, off-the-grid computer. You know, for when your artistic muse ends up slamming into the Earth.