The latest tool for checking space weather is an internet radio station fed by data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO. The radio station essentially operates in real time, receiving measurements of how much radiation the spacecraft is experiencing and converting those into a constant stream of music. The radiation levels determine which instrument is featured, the musical key being used and the pitches played.
The radiation levels are determined by LRO's Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation, or CRaTER. Equipped with six detectors, CRaTER monitors the energetic charged particles from galactic cosmic rays and solar events.
The instrument makes two kinds of crucial measurements. One type studies the interaction of radiation in space with a material that is like human tissue; this is helping scientists assess the effects that exposure would have on people and organisms. The other type looks at radiation hitting the moon and the products generated by that interaction, which provides a way to explore the composition of the regolith on the moon.
Each detector on CRaTER reports the number of particles registered every second. These counts are relayed to CRaTER Live Radio, where software converts the numbers into pitches in a four-octave scale. Six pitches are played every second, one for each detector. Higher, tinkly pitches indicate less activity, whereas lower, somber-sounding pitches indicate more activity.
The software selects the primary instrument and a musical key based on recent activity. At the lowest radiation levels, the main instrument will be a piano, playing pitches from one of the major scales. But as the peak radiation level climbs, one of the minor scales will be selected instead, and the piano will be replaced by one of seven other instruments.
Read the full story on NASA's website.