JUL 15, 2019 4:12 PM PDT

The Science Behind Saturn's Peculiar Noises

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Saturn is one of the solar system’s most captivating planets. That said, it’s no surprise that scientists spent 15 years monitoring the distant world with the Cassini spacecraft until it ran out of fuel and plunged into the gas giant’s atmosphere in 2017.

The Cassini mission revealed a lot about Saturn, its rings, and its many moons, but one of the eeriest things we learned while studying Saturn was that it emits radio and plasma waves, which Cassini recorded and later beamed back to Earth for analysis.

In the case of the first audio bite, the sound was found to originate from Saturn’s aurora. As the Sun’s solar wind bombards the planet, its magnetic field redirects much of the charged particles toward the poles. The impacts of these particles emit electromagnetic radiation, and this is precisely what we hear in this audio track.

Cassini also got much closer to Saturn during specific encounters, and in some instances, the orbit became so right that it could detect radio waves produced by lightning inside some of the planet’s atmospheric storms. In some cases, Cassini came in contact with microscopic dust particles, which vaporized on impact; this also created a noise, reminiscent of static.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the sounds even came from Saturn’s moons themselves. In one instance, Cassini captured a signal from Enceladus, which was later found to be the ‘bending’ of its magnetic field.

Space is often thought of as a soundless vacuum, and while that’s mostly correct, it seems that some of the solar system’s largest worlds exhibit audible activity that might be worth studying for the sake of science.

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
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