One of NASA’s longest spacecraft has detected a “continuous hum” outside our solar system, more than 22 billion kilometers away.
NASA launched Voyager 1 on September 5, 1977 on board the Titan-Centaur rocket and has been floating in space for more than 43 years.
The Voyager 1 and its sister vehicle, the Voyager 2, were designed to last only five years, but both have survived for decades in interstellar space and have since sent data back to NASA.
According to research published in Nature Astronomy, instruments on Voyager 1 have detected the sound of plasma waves traveling around space. You can hear the scary noises here.
Voyager 1 took more than 20 years to get it out of our solar system and crossed the boundaries of the solar system with interstellar space, known as the heliosphere, in August 2012.
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Since then, the spacecraft has been traveling through the interstellar medium, and it is there that the unmanned probe detected the sound of plasma waves.
The Cornell University research examined the data transmitted by Voyager 1 and found emissions of interstellar gases.
“It’s very faint and monotonous, because it’s in a narrow frequency band,” said Stella Koch Ocker, a PhD student at Cornell University in astronomy.
“We are monitoring the faint and continuous buzzing of interstellar gas.”
Voyager 1 is equipped with a number of tools that allow astronomers to collect data from the probe.
One of these, the plasma wave system, which detects oscillations in the gas, is what captured the sound.
Not only did the researchers capture the vibrations of gas produced by our sun, but they also captured a steady sound.
“The interstellar medium is like a gentle or calm rain,” said James Cordes, a professor of astronomy at Cornell and the lead author of the study.
“In the event of a solar eruption, it is like detecting a lightning burst in a thunderstorm and then returning to a light rain.”
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The discovery of sound waves led researchers to continue to search for more space noise.
“We never had a chance to evaluate it. Cornell University research scientist Shami Chatterjee said, “We now know that we don’t need an accidental Sun-related event to measure the interstellar plasma.”
“No matter what the sun does, Voyager sends out the details again.”
The researchers were excited about spotting the noise – but also that it came from Voyager 1, the most distant human-made object operating in space.
“Scientifically, this research is a remarkable achievement. “It’s a testament to the amazing Voyager spacecraft,” said Ms. Auker.
“It is the engineering gift of science that continues to give.”