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Wanda Diaz-Merced - The Sound of Our Universe

Updated: Dec 18, 2021

Meet Dr. Wanda Diaz-Merced

Astrophysicist and Computer Scientist

This Project: Sonification (Listen to the energy given off by stars)

Click here to watch a video about Wanda.

Wanda Diaz-Merced grew up poor, in a small village in Puerto Rico. She worked hard to become an astrophysicist and computer scientist. But Wanda is amazing for another reason. Wanda is blind. She can’t look through a telescope. She can’t see photos of stars. Wanda had to find another way to explore the universe. Today Wanda writes computer programs that turn the information from stars into sound.

“Never give up on your dreams. Give yourself the chance of a lifetime. Anyone with dedication, discipline, and a good heart can reach their goal.”

This chart shows the different kinds of energy in the universe. You don’t have to understand most of the chart. You just need to know that we can’t see most of this energy anyway.

  • · We can’t see radio waves that carry signals to our radios, phones, and TVs.

  • · We can’t see UV rays that can burn our skin.

  • · We can’t see x-rays that travel through our skin and muscles to make pictures of broken bones.

The only energy we see is the rainbow, and it fits into that tiny gap in the grey bar on the chart. Everything else on that grey bar is invisible. Scientists can measure it. They can graph what they measured. Wanda takes those energy measurements, those numbers, and turns them into sound instead of graphs. The sounds are beautiful, but they are not music. Music has human-made patterns in it. But the energy from space is unpredictable. You hear nature as it is: unpredictable!

Click here to listen to a Hubble Space Telescope image of a galaxy cluster. Listen to more sounds from NASA here.

Wanda’s work helps blind people explore the universe. It can also help everyone. Wanda did studies. People who could see and hear information from the stars were able to find more patterns.

Wanda lost her eyesight during her college years. It seemed that she’d lost her dreams too. When she first turned energy into sound, she felt the sense of possibility! She describes it this way. "I was wondering what am I going to do in science if the ways needed for a blind person to mainstream do not exist. I wanted to do research like the top scientists do. Feel the excitement of researching, finding new things, suggesting and trying new ways to experiment by myself. I did not have that. When I heard the first audio it awakened in me a profound sense of possibility."

Wanda's life teaches all of us that the universe is full of possibilities.

Photo credits

Profile photo: This Photo is licensed under CC BY-NC

Electromagnetic Spectrum Diagram: This Photo is licensed under CC BY-SA

Hubble Space Telescope Image:

Read these books to learn more about the universe . . .


Look in your nearest library shelf for astronomy books in the 520's.

by Bruce Betts

Take an exciting, fact-filled journey that goes where all great space books for kids should―to our solar system and beyond! Super Cool Space Facts is bursting with info about stormy planets, exploding stars, weird black holes, amazing landers, and more.

Blast past other space books for kids with:

  • Galaxies of wonder―Launch into learning with awesome and easy-to-digest facts about everything from asteroids hurtling through space to astronauts on the International Space Station.

  • Entertaining information―Fill your outer space adventure with the jokes, big word alerts, and fascinating mysteries of the universe all space books for kids should have.

  • Full-color photos―See how cool space is with incredible pictures of stars, galaxies, planets, constellations, and more. Ages 6 -9


by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Gregory Mone

From the basics of physics to big questions about the nature of space and time, celebrated astrophysicist and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson breaks down the mysteries of the cosmos into bite-sized pieces. Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry describes the fundamental rules and unknowns of our universe clearly—and with Tyson’s characteristic wit, there’s a lot of fun thrown in, too.

This adaptation by Gregory Mone includes full-color photos, infographics, and extra explanations to make even the trickiest concepts accessible. Building on the wonder inspired by outer space, Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry introduces an exciting field and the principles of scientific inquiry to young readers.

Visit Neil DeGrasse Tyson's website to learn about the Hayden Observatory and check out the info about his TV series Cosmos. You can visit his Amazon author page too. Gregory Mone also writes the Jack and the Genius series. Learn more about Gregory's books.

. . . and visit these websites!


Photo Credits

Profile Photo: This Photo is licensed under CC BY-NC

Electromagnetic Spectrum Diagram: This Photo is licensed under CC BY-SA

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