NASA has recently released a collection of haunting recordings from the solar system, which reveal the eerie noises that can be heard in the void of space. The recordings are based on the plasma waves that are generated by the interactions of charged particles and magnetic fields around various celestial bodies.
Sound waves are vibrations of air molecules that travel through the air and reach our ears. However, in space, there is no air to carry these vibrations, so sound cannot propagate. But that does not mean that space is completely silent. There are other forms of waves that can travel through space, such as electromagnetic waves and plasma waves.
Electromagnetic waves are oscillations of electric and magnetic fields that can carry information and energy across vast distances. Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic waves that can be detected by radio telescopes and converted into sound. For example, in 1932, astronomer Karl Guthe Jansky discovered the first radio source in the sky, which turned out to be the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way.
Plasma waves are fluctuations of electric and magnetic fields that are caused by the motion of charged particles in a plasma. Plasma is a state of matter where atoms are ionized, meaning they have lost or gained electrons. Plasma is abundant in space, especially around planets with strong magnetic fields, such as Earth, Jupiter and Saturn. Plasma waves can be picked up by instruments on spacecraft and translated into sound.
The Sounds Of The Sun And The Planets
The Sun is the largest and most powerful source of plasma waves in the solar system. Its surface is constantly boiling with convection cells that are larger than Texas, creating huge magnetic loops and flares. Scientists have estimated that if sound could travel through space, we could hear the Sun as a constant roar of 100 decibels, which is equivalent to a jet engine.
The planets also produce their own plasma sounds, depending on their size, composition and magnetic environment. Earth’s plasma waves sound like birds or whales, as they are influenced by the solar wind and the ionosphere. Jupiter’s plasma waves sound like a chorus of crickets or frogs, as they are affected by its powerful magnetic field and its many moons. Saturn’s plasma waves sound like a spooky sci-fi soundtrack, as they are shaped by its complex ring system and its moon Enceladus.
The Sounds Of The Moons And Other Bodies
Some of the moons in the solar system also have their own unique plasma sounds. For example, Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s moons, has a thin atmosphere and a magnetic field that create crackling noises. Io, another moon of Jupiter, has volcanic activity that spews out sulfur dioxide gas and dust that generate hissing sounds. Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, has a thick atmosphere and a hydrocarbon cycle that produce whistling sounds.
Other bodies in the solar system, such as comets and asteroids, also emit plasma sounds when they interact with the solar wind or other bodies. For example, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which was visited by the Rosetta spacecraft in 2014-2016, made a singing sound that was caused by oscillations in its magnetic field. Asteroid 3200 Phaethon, which is the source of the Geminid meteor shower, made a screeching sound that was caused by its rapid rotation and dust emission.
Why These Sounds Are Important For Science
The plasma sounds from the solar system are not only fascinating to listen to, but also valuable for scientific research. They can help us understand the physical processes and properties of different bodies in space, such as their temperature, density, composition and magnetic field strength. They can also help us detect new phenomena and events in space, such as solar storms, auroras and cosmic rays.
By listening to these sounds, we can also learn more about the origins and evolution of our solar system and beyond. For example, by comparing the plasma sounds from different planets and moons, we can infer how they formed and changed over time. By analyzing the plasma sounds from comets and asteroids, we can trace their trajectories and origins in the outer solar system or interstellar space.
NASA has made these sounds available to the public on its website SoundCloud, where you can listen to them for free. You can also find more information about these sounds on NASA’s website, where you can learn about the missions and instruments that recorded them.