As a little girl, Wanda Diaz Merced loved to look up at the stars from her home in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. She now is an astronomer at the International Astronomical Union’s Office of Astronomy for Development in Cape Town, South Africa. But Merced can no longer see the stars. She lost her eyesight as a young adult from problems associated with diabetes.
Until she went blind, Diaz Merced used charts and graphs to help her study space phenomena, such as gamma ray bursts. These are very-high-energy explosions in distant galaxies. The charts and graphs she had used were based on numbers. And one day it dawned on her that she didn’t need to see those numbers to delve into the data they held. She could simply express the numbers as sounds.