NASA has revealed the first ‘unsettling’ sounds captured by its Cassini spacecraft as it traveled between Saturn and its rings. “It was a bit disorienting—we were not hearing what we expected.”
On April 26, the Cassini spacecraft made the first plunge through the gap located between Saturn and its massive rings. While traveling through the ‘void’ between the planet and its rings, scientists from NASA used the spacecrafts sensors in order to measure the dust in the area—then converted the data by measuring each dust particle that collided with the sensor into sound.
The Result? Unsettling and totally unexpected sounds: series or crackers, snarls, and scratches which are best defined as otherworldly. Maybe creepy is also right.
Ok so is that good or bad? Well, what NASA recorded starts off as static, but you can hear other distant noises that may sound as if little yellowish aliens from Saturn are using the morse code to call for help, electric sounds and other noises that are straight out of a horror movie. But scientists say that’s the sound of NOTHING.
What do you mean nothing? Well, according to experts, they expected to hear much more than just a few creepy scary noises. They expected that the region between Saturn and its rings to be filled with much more dust. But apparently, its ’empty’.
“The region between the rings and Saturn is ‘the big empty,’ apparently,” said Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Cassini will stay the course, while the scientists work on the mystery of why the dust level is much lower than expected.”
The team’s analysis suggests Cassini only encountered a few particles as it crossed the gap — none larger than those in smoke (about 1micron across).
As noted by NASA, A dustier environment in the gap might have meant the spacecraft’s saucer-shaped main antenna would be needed as a shield during most future dives through the ring plane. This would have forced changes to how and when Cassini’s instruments would be able to make observations. Fortunately, it appears that the “plan B” option is no longer needed.
Had Cassini encountered more dust particles while traveling towards Saturn, the cracks, and pops would have been much more common in the recording.
“It was a bit disorienting—we weren’t hearing what we expected to hear,” said William Kurth, RPWS team lead at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. “I’ve listened to our data from the first dive several times and I can probably count on my hands the number of dust particle impacts I hear.”
Here’s a comparison audio of then Cassini crossed one of Saturn’s rings. This video represents data collected by the Radio and Plasma Wave Science instrument on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, as it crossed the plane of Saturn’s rings on Dec. 18, 2016. The instrument is able to record ring particles striking the spacecraft in its data. During this ring crossing, Cassini went through the faint, dusty ring that lies in the orbit shared by Saturnian moons Janus and Epimetheus. In this data there is a clearly audible and visible rise, peak, and fall in the number of pops and cracks that represent ring particles striking the spacecraft. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Iowa
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Featured image courtesy: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI / Jason Major