“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. a map comparing the sizes of several cities
    Maps

    The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History

    From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.

  2. Life

    Why Are America’s Three Biggest Metros Shrinking?

    After a post-recession boomlet, the New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago areas are all seeing their population decline.

  3. An architectural rendering of a large new development in Manhattan, set against the New York skyline.
    Design

    Why Essex Crossing Is a Model Mega-Development

    With a large share of affordable housing and restrained architecture, the six-acre project seeks to fit into—rather than shake up—New York’s Lower East Side.

  4. black children walking by a falling-down building
    Equity

    White Americans’ Hold on Wealth Is Old, Deep, and Nearly Unshakeable

    White families quickly recuperated financial losses after the Civil War, and then created a Jim Crow credit system to bring more white families into money.

  5. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

×