“Orbit Pavilion” is a metallic womb that tracks and musicalizes invisible space chatter.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Torrents of data rain down upon the earth every second only to be sucked up and translated by giant satellite dishes such as those at California’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex. What might these ethereal signals sound like, if put to music?

Residents of the L.A. area can hear it in person by visiting a strange NASA sculpture called “Orbit Pavilion.” Shaped like a massive seashell, the pavilion has a hollow interior that broadcasts the movements of 19 satellites. Listeners inside can hear the space vessels approaching and passing overhead as a range of naturalistic noise, from ocean waves to blowing leaves to the lonely howl of the desert wind.

The sculpture is meant to educate people about the technology monitoring our planet; thus the missions of satellites are displayed as they pass, from studying weather events to wave heights to Earth’s diminishing ice. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory built it with help from Brooklyn’s STUDIOKCA and composer Shane Myrbeck. “What we’re really interested in doing is making an experience where people can walk out and understand that these satellites move above them,” says NASA’s David Delgado. “We want them to feel the presence of those satellites and know exactly where they are in the sky—to be able to hear them and point their finger at where they are.”

Folks who want to experience the surreal grooves of “space chatter” can enter “Orbit Pavilion” at the The Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: A lone tourist in Barcelona, one of several global cities that have seen a massive crash in Airbnb bookings.
    Coronavirus

    Can Airbnb Survive Coronavirus?

    The short-term rental market is reeling from the coronavirus-driven tourism collapse. Can the industry’s dominant player stage a comeback after lockdowns lift?

  2. Illustration: two roommates share a couch with a Covid-19 virus.
    Coronavirus

    For Roommates Under Coronavirus Lockdown, There Are a Lot of New Rules

    Renters in apartments and houses share more than just germs with their roommates: Life under coronavirus lockdown means negotiating new social rules.

  3. photo: South Korean soldiers attempt to disinfect the sidewalks of Seoul's Gagnam district in response to the spread of COVID-19.
    Coronavirus

    Pandemics Are Also an Urban Planning Problem

    Will COVID-19 change how cities are designed? Michele Acuto of the Connected Cities Lab talks about density, urbanization and pandemic preparation.  

  4. photo: a For Rent sign in a window in San Francisco.
    Coronavirus

    Do Landlords Deserve a Coronavirus Bailout, Too?

    Some renters and homeowners are getting financial assistance during the economic disruption from the coronavirus pandemic. What about landlords?

  5. Equity

    The Problem With a Coronavirus Rent Strike

    Because of coronavirus, millions of tenants won’t be able to write rent checks. But calls for a rent holiday often ignore the longer-term economic effects.

×