Even though we’ve already told you about the mysteries of our solar system here, here, and here, we’re back with more mysterious sights and sounds that baffle our best scientists. At least one of them has fueled conspiracy theories, but that’s just part of the fun.
Mysterious ‘Sounds’ In Space
First, we hear the eerie sounds that NASA’s Cassini spacecraft detected as radio emissions from Saturn’s poles in April 2002. The variations in frequency and time corresponded to activity in Saturn’s auroras, like the radio emissions from our own northern and southern lights. Scientists believe the complex band of rising and falling tones came from many small radio sources that moved along Saturn’s magnetic field lines near its polar regions. Conspiracy theorists think it sounds like alien speech.
Second, we hear NASA’s Voyager I enter interstellar space (if you don’t count the Oort cloud) in 2012. That’s the farthest any of our spacecraft have traveled from Earth. It took 35 years to hear the eerie sound of that dense plasma (ionized gas) vibrating as it collided with a blast wave from an eruption on the Sun.
Third, we hear “xylophone music” from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as recorded by the Rosetta spacecraft in August 2014. Scientists believe the music comes from “oscillations in the magnetic field in the comet’s environment,” according to an ESA blog post. “To make the music audible to the human ear, the frequencies [were] increased by a factor of about 10,000.” Even now, it’s a mystery exactly how those oscillations work.
Next, we hear the whistling sound (electromagnetic “whistler” emissions) of lightning on Jupiter, as recorded by Voyager. When the emitted waves hit the plasma above the planet, the higher frequencies moved faster than the lower frequencies along Jupiter’s magnetic field. That’s why we hear those otherworldly whistling effects, which sound like Gorn weapons attacking the Enterprise landing party in the Star Trek episode “Arena.”
Finally, we hear the “heartbeat” of a feeding black hole in binary star system GRS 1915+105, as recorded by NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer in 1996 and converted to sound by scientists at MIT. NASA also recorded a heartbeat from the black hole in system IGR J17091-3624 in 2003.
Hidden Magnetic Portals Around Earth
Earth is surrounded by a magnetosphere, an invisible magnetic field generated by our planet’s molten core. In the upper atmosphere, the lines of magnetic force between our planet and the Sun sometimes meet to form X-points, openings to these hidden magnetic portals. Each portal forms an unbroken, 150-million-kilometer (90 million mi) path from Earth’s atmosphere to the Sun’s atmosphere, allowing large numbers of solar particles to quickly flow into our magnetosphere if the portal stays open long enough. When that happens, these solar particles can produce geomagnetic storms, possibly causing auroras and disruptions to our electrical grids.
Plasma physicist Jack Scudder found that we may be able to predict X-points. “We have found five simple combinations of magnetic field and energetic particle measurements that tell us when we’ve come across an X-point or an electron diffusion region,” said Scudder. “A single spacecraft, properly instrumented, can make these measurements.”space travel space science earth science space station science space travel space science earth science space station
NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission was launched in early 2015 to look for these magnetic portals and gather more information about them.