The Sounds of Space: An Interplanetary Sonic Journey

There are those of us who, when pre­sent­ed with duel­ing star­ships in a movie or tele­vi­sion show, always make the same objec­tion: there’s no sound in out­er space. In the short film above, this valid if aggra­vat­ing­ly pedan­tic charge is con­firmed by Lori Glaze, Direc­tor of NASA’s Sci­ence Mis­sion Direc­torate’s Plan­e­tary Sci­ence Divi­sion. “Sound requires mol­e­cules,” she says. “You have to be able to move mol­e­cules with the sound waves, and with­out the mol­e­cules, the sound just does­n’t move.” Space has as few as ten atoms per cubic meter; our atmos­phere, by con­trast, has more ten tril­lion tril­lion — that’s “tril­lion tril­lion” with two Ts.

No won­der Earth can be such an infer­nal rack­et. But as every school­child knows, the rest of solar sys­tem as a whole is hard­ly emp­ty. In twen­ty min­utes, the The Sounds of Space takes us on a tour of the plan­ets from Mer­cury out to Plu­to and even Sat­urn’s moon of Titan, not just visu­al­iz­ing their sights but, if you like, aural­iz­ing their sounds.

These include real record­ings, like those of Venu­sian winds cap­tured by the Sovi­et lan­der Ven­era 14 in 1981. Most, how­ev­er, are sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly informed con­struc­tions of more spec­u­la­tive phe­nom­e­non: a “Mer­curyquake,” for instance, or a “Methanofall” on Titan.

A col­lab­o­ra­tion between film­mak­er John D. Boswell (also known as Melodysheep) and Twen­ty Thou­sand Hertz, a pod­cast about “the sto­ries behind the world’s most rec­og­niz­able and inter­est­ing sounds,” The Sounds of Space was recent­ly fea­tured at Aeon. That site rec­om­mends view­ing the film “as an explo­ration of the physics of sound, and the sci­ence of how we’ve evolved to receive sound waves right here on Earth.” How­ev­er you frame it, you’ll hear plen­ty of sounds the likes of which you’ve nev­er heard before, as well as the voic­es of Earth­lings high­ly knowl­edgable in these mat­ters: Glaze’s, but also those of NASA Plan­e­tary Astronomer Kei­th Noll and Research Astro­physi­cist Scott Guzewich. And as a bonus, you’ll be pre­pared to cri­tique the son­ic real­ism of the next bat­tle you see staged on the sur­face of Mars.

via Aeon

Relat­ed Con­tent:

NASA Puts Online a Big Col­lec­tion of Space Sounds, and They’re Free to Down­load and Use

Sun Ra Applies to NASA’s Art Pro­gram: When the Inven­tor of Space Jazz Applied to Make Space Art

42 Hours of Ambi­ent Sounds from Blade Run­ner, Alien, Star Trek and Doc­tor Who Will Help You Relax & Sleep

Plants Emit High-Pitched Sounds When They Get Cut, or Stressed by Drought, a New Study Shows

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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