When NASA’s Juno spacecraft orbited Jupiter this summer for the first time, it captured radio emissions cast by the gas giant’s vast auroras.
Now University of Iowa engineers have converted those recordings into sound files, and they sound pretty spooky.
“Jupiter is talking to us in a way only gas-giant worlds can,” says Bill Kurth, research scientist at the University of Iowa.
“Waves detected the signature emissions of the energetic particles that generate the massive auroras that encircle Jupiter’s north pole,” Kurth adds. “These emissions are the strongest in the solar system. Now we are going to try to figure out where the electrons that are generating them come from.”
The research team is exploring how electrons and ions are accelerated along magnetic field lines above Jupiter to collide with the atmosphere, generating the auroras.
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By sampling plasma waves along different magnetic lines, the team’s Wave instrument will be able to learn more about the process.
Kurth draws parallels to a stringed instrument: “If you pluck a string on a violin, the string vibrates. The vibrating string is like the plasma itself; in the plasma it is the charged particles that are moving.”
These radiowaves are “downshifted” to the audio range and then compressed to turn hours of emissions into short soundbites.
Kurth adds: “We like to listen to them. We figure if we like to listen to them, others will too.”
Juno is an astonishing spacecraft that has accomplished a great number of firsts for NASA.
It is the first solar-powered spacecraft to reach Jupiter, it will also be the closest that any spacecraft has ever got to Jupiter’s surface (2,600 miles).
It’s also the fastest spacecraft to ever enter orbit around a planet, travelling at an astonishing 130,000mph by the time it reaches the gas giant.