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Eerie Sounds from Saturn 217

Mick Ohrberg writes "Scientists at NASA have now heard proof (called 'Saturn kilometric radiation') that Saturn has a phenomenon similar to the earths' Northern Lights (aurora borealis). Talking about the eerie sounding noise, Dr. Bill Kurth with the University of Iowa, says "We believe that the changing frequencies are related to tiny radio sources moving up and down along Saturn's magnetic field lines." It couldn't sound any spookier if they added a Theremin."
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Eerie Sounds from Saturn

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  • by daviq ( 888445 ) on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:24PM (#13161850)
    Just because the Saturnites are watching the twilight zone gives our scientists no reason to talk about electroical-magnetical-thingicals...
  • Wahhh (Score:5, Funny)

    by JeiFuRi ( 888436 ) on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:25PM (#13161861)
    I thought there was no sound in space?
    • Re:Wahhh (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:36PM (#13161923)
      These are radio emissions, electromagnitec waves that propagate undisturbed in vacuum and as such were detected by Cassini. Sound as you point out needs a medium such as air, as it required waves of a compressed medium, and our ears evolved to detect a portion of that frequency, typically 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The audio that you hear is just an artifact, it is just the "baseband" interpretation of that emission, and is useful to appreciate the richness of the emissions in the frequency spectrum and variation in time (which we appreciate as "tone" and "melody"). It was "transposed" by a factor of about 40, but this is arbitrary and can affect the quality of the "rendition".
      • Re:Wahhh (Score:4, Interesting)

        by fossa ( 212602 ) <> on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @01:04AM (#13162799) Journal

        Question: at what level of vacuum does sound cease to propagate? I imagine "cease to propagate" might be subjective? Or perhaps there's a definite line like "when the mean free path of the gas molecules is large compared to the chamber dimensions" (a gas molecule hits the wall more often than it hits another gas molecule) (as in turbopumps, is that even correct?)... though what that would mean in outer space isn't clear to me.

        • Re:Wahhh (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          At very low pressures such as the high altitudes of commercial flight routes you still obviuosly have significant propagation, I think that the limit is more theoretical than anything. I think you are in a good path with your reasoning, as the wavelength of a sound wave is the distance between 2 peaks of high pressure, which has a low pressure valley in between, in an extremely rarified environment, such as in deep space, the extremely large mean free path of the molecules would result in mind numbing wavel
          • You don't usually get normal sound waves in space. Ion acoustic waves [] do form, though. Plasma is the dominant form of matter outside the atmosphere, and ion acoustic waves are a vibrational mode in the plasma, as opposed the the more direct collisions of neutral matter. (Though those collisions are also really electromagnetic in nature.) The waves described in this article are a different sort - ion cylotron waves.
  • by PenguinBoyDave ( 806137 ) <> on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:26PM (#13161865)
    This is why I like technology. My seven-year-old will think this is just very, very cool. Perhaps one day we'll actually find little green men. If mean heck...if we can hear this, just think of how much more is to come! AWESOME!
  • Ah. Whistlers, etc. (Score:5, Informative)

    by gardyloo ( 512791 ) on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:26PM (#13161866)
    Did a project in college to detect and characterize some of these "noises", but in the Earth's atmosphere. They're really very interesting.

    The "dawn chorus" (not recorded by me!) can be found here: ahref= nds.htmlrel=url2html-7959 []http://image.gsfc.nasa.go v/poetry/sounds/sounds.html>
    • Fixed Link (Score:4, Informative)

      by Adam9 ( 93947 ) on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:35PM (#13161916) Journal
    • by nherm ( 889807 ) on Monday July 25, 2005 @10:35PM (#13162190) Journal

      I found here [] a sample of AKR emission from earth's magnetosphere. This sample has a higher frequency shift than the one from the first link in the fine article, but also I think they are similar, in both cases structures that oscilates with high to low-frequencies, and then high again, can be heard (that, or I need new earphones :)

      Maybe you would like to compare the spectrograms:

      Earth's AKR [] emission.

      Saturn's AKR [] emission.

      Also, one of the samples [] from cassini is very similar (IMO) to this [] sample of a chorus emission at earth's magnetosphere (more info here [], in the sense that there are some structures rising from low to high-frequency.

      Sadly, the spectrogram [] is not so clear, like the one from cassini []

      Very interesting stuff. Yes, I did some work in that area. No, I am not a space physicist. And finally, yes, I have this [] page in my bookmarks.

    • Gosh ... and I was listening to Erasure just this afternoon:

      The sunlight rising over the horizon
      Just a distant memory
      The dawn chorus (dawn chorus)
      Birds singing, bells ringing
      In our hearts, in our minds

  • Now let's hear an updated version of "Music of the Spheres"!
  • Forbidden planet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Various Assortments ( 781521 ) on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:26PM (#13161868)
    Sounds like some of the effects from the soundtrack to Forbidden Planet! []

    • myself and oil-job." -- Robbie the Robot

    • If they'd have recorded a few more minutes, they would have heard:

      "And that was Rings of Dust by Azuza Maklar and the Merangins. A lovely tune written in the 29403.425's. We're going to take a short commercial break right now, but please stay with us for a long evening of soothing klakbar instrumentals on WSAT."
    • Sounds like some of the effects from the soundtrack to Forbidden Planet!

      Interesting comparison. Louis and Bebe Barron [] were the first to create a completely electronic film score, for Forbidden Planet. According to a piece I heard on NPR (text overview and audio here []), the sounds created were truly one-of-a-kind. So much so, that they could only *be* created once -- one way of generating a distinct sound was to build an electronic device that was designed to overload itself, with the eerie sounds genera
  • by dancpsu ( 822623 ) on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:26PM (#13161870) Journal
    Is this eerie recording week in science news? First the recording of the tsunami of the Earth Ripping Apart [] and now this.
  • Geez! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Cytlid ( 95255 ) * on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:27PM (#13161878)
    And here I was going to trade in my Hyundai for a Saturn because it was making erie noises as well.
  • If NASA gets slashdotted, be sure to bookmark the link and check back later. The sound is REALLY cool! It sounds just like the sound effects from those sci fi B movies from the 50's!
  • by geophile ( 16995 ) <> on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:28PM (#13161883) Homepage
    The planet of Saturn has ripped off Man or Astroman.
    • Now, if we can just convince the MPAA and RIAA that a whole planet of beings are infringing their copyrights, maybe we can get them to invest in a large spaceship and travel there. Perhaps we can call their spaceship, for lack of a better name, the "B" ark.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:29PM (#13161889)
    Theremin the size of a planet, and all I get is a Slashdotting.
  • by NeoThermic ( 732100 ) on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:29PM (#13161890) Homepage Journal
    >>Time on this recording has been compressed, so that 73 seconds corresponds to 27 minutes. Since the frequencies of these emissions are well above the audio frequency range, we have shifted them downward by a factor of 44.

    If you compressed the time of my voice down about 22 times and shifted its frequency down by a factor of 44, I think I would sound eerie as well!

    Then again... you might not need to shift my voice to make it sound eerie...

  • INSPIRE (Score:5, Informative)

    by geigertube ( 265640 ) <geigertube@yahoo . c om> on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:30PM (#13161896) Homepage
    If anyone's interested in listening to the Earth natural radio broadcasts, NASA has a nice page set up (with kits for making your own VLF receiver)here. [] Other planets here. []
  • News? (Score:5, Funny)

    by mendaliv ( 898932 ) on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:35PM (#13161917)
    This is news? Hippies have been hearing this sound since the 60s!
  • Aha! (Score:4, Funny)

    by codewritinfool ( 546655 ) on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:37PM (#13161929)
    So THAT'S what has been keeping me awake at night. I'm calling NASA tomorrow and demanding that they turn that thing down.
  • by glrotate ( 300695 ) on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:53PM (#13162004) Homepage
    come from Uranus.
  • Quote: "Most Impressive"

    I hear that Darth Vader desperatly wants to replace his Crazy Frog ringtone with this sound. Apparently he didn't have to think too long about it. After all, It's far more suitable for a Dark Lord.

    I'm sure Jamster will find a way to ruin it though with Axel F over the top or something...
  • by toeofdestiny ( 519453 ) on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:57PM (#13162023)
    You can still buy new ones from Moog [].
    • or better yet, build your own! I built a Theremax [] from a kit a couple years ago and have enjoyed experimenting with it. I just used an old box for the case (wood lecturn not required).
    • Rather an interesting history of the Theremin here [].

      One interesting snippet:

      After rave reviews at Moscow electronics conferences, Theremin demonstrated the device to Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin personally. Lenin was so impressed with the device that he began taking lessons in playing it, commissioned 600 of the instruments for distribution throughout the Soviet Union, and sent Theremin on a trip around the world to demonstrate the latest Soviet technology and the invention of electronic music.
  • by Solder Fumes ( 797270 ) on Monday July 25, 2005 @09:58PM (#13162026)
    I somehow get the feeling that some scientist were sitting around the lab drinking cheap beer, and wondered what they'd have to do to get the Saturn data to sound EXACTLY like something out of a poor-quality 50's space flick.
    • I somehow get the feeling that some scientist were sitting around the lab drinking cheap beer, and wondered what they'd have to do to get the Saturn data to sound EXACTLY like something out of a poor-quality 50's space flick.

      I think they decided it was futile and just put on an episode of Lost in Space and hit record.
  • I'm sure the guys/gals over at really appreciate somebody posting a link on /. that isn't even an integral part of the main story. Now their servers "couldn't sound any spookier if they added a Theremin []".
  • This really, really sounds a whole lot like the opening music of Forbidden Planet, only over a much smaller and more uniform tonal range.

    Well, I know what I'm playing out my darkened windows to Trick-or-Treaters come Halloween!

  • this sound exactly like the intro to the 90's remake of night of the living dead [], which in my humble opinion is the best zombie flick of all time.
  • Another recording (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Here is another, perhaps even stranger sounding recording from the Iowa scientists' web site. ni/SKR2/casskrtrig04207a.wav []
  • Heh. Just kidding. They've been here for years already.

  • In case you didn't know, Hell is beneath our feet, and you can listen to a real audio sample of it here [].
  • The summary makes it sound like this is something new. It isn't. SKR has been known for decades. The aurora have been directly imaged in the UV. What's new is cool audio files (nothing wrong with that) from a very good instrument in Saturn orbit, an instrument that should lead to a better understanding of aurora and magnetospheric processes.
  • by hobotron ( 891379 ) on Monday July 25, 2005 @10:17PM (#13162128)

    from the woooooooooo-woooooooooooo dept. []

    Yous asposed to be awake on sataun' when the aurora comes.

  • by hoggoth ( 414195 ) on Monday July 25, 2005 @10:19PM (#13162140) Journal
    I'm playing it over and over.

    It's bringing back some great memories of watching bad 50's sci-fi movies as a kid.
    For some reason I keep picturing a fat gorilla-suited space alien in a diving helmet... [].

    Oh no... I've played it too many times... I've alerted the terrible space aliens that have been monitoring our airwaves!

    Everybody run! Save your selves! Save your wives!

  • Sounds like the theme music from "Lost In Space" caught in a Saturnian feedback loop. So much for "Silent Running".
  • ...or can anyone else see a face in the spectrum image?

    Not saying "it's jesus!!!", but to me it seems to be looking left (its right) with its mouth open at the bottom around 6:40.

    Kinda freaky to me (besides the audio).
  • As someone who's had a minor career in computer music, I've seen this type of thing again and again. You can take almost any sampled data and if it is something other than purely random you can massage the frequency response into the human hearing range. Its fun to do, but it usually doesn't tell you much.

  • Wes Craven Hired By NASA To Reinvigorate Their Program

    In an apparent effort to win over their "Fellow Americans," NASA hired Hollywood dream killer Wes Craven to create sound bites to scare the raggity ends off of every internet surfers' eyelashes.

    "Not to be outdone by 'those other soundbites' in recent days ::cough cough::", says Craven, "we are now in the process of creating the world's scariest underwater sounds featuring blue whales drinking scotch near the Falkland Islands and the soon-to-be (

  • Saturn in 2001 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Monday July 25, 2005 @10:58PM (#13162303) Homepage Journal
    In the original version of 2001, they had Saturn instead of Jupiter as the source of the Big Mystery. Clarke thought it was an "interesting coincidence" that Saturn's rings supposedly formed at about the same time the first humans evolved. (Can't verify whether that's accurate, and am dubious as to the meaning of "coincidence" at that time scale.) The extra difficulty of doing SFX with the rings was just a little bit too much, and they changed it to Jupiter. If they'd stuck with Saturn, imagine the silly comments that this discussion would have!
    • Re:Saturn in 2001 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @08:35AM (#13164076) Homepage
      In the original version of 2001, they had Saturn instead of Jupiter as the source of the Big Mystery.

      Arthur C. Clarke actually retained Saturn as the destination in the novel (not a 'novelisation'; it was written concurrently in order to help develop the film). The novel also varies in several other areas; notably the "pod bay doors" scene in the film is handled differently, albeit to the same ends. The 'stargate' is also different.

      The difference is as much one of tone and style, however. The novel is more ACC "factual" and explains things in a way the film never tries to.

      Having seen the film some 6 years after first reading the book, I made what (in retrospect) I consider the mistake of treating them as the same thing in different form. At first, I saw the film as being similar to the book, but with less explanation; now I realise that at a deeper level the philosophy and approach of the book and film are fundamentally different, and to get the most out of the film, it's necessary to consider it on its own merits.

      That's not to say I prefer the film; in some ways, I think it's overrated and pretentious (having initially given it an unconsidered free ride on my "favourites" list on the back of my liking of the novel, I realised that on its own merits I wasn't that keen on it).

      The odd thing is the sequel, 2010. The novel of 2010 (which the 2010 film was based on) was an engrossing and natural sequel to the 2001 novel. This despite the fact it took the location of the action from the 2001 film (Jupiter) not the 2001 novel (Saturn); in terms of its logical style, and the quote "Oh my God... It's full of stars", it follows on from the novel, not the film.

      The film 2010, which came later, perversely borrowed the "Oh my God" line from the novels (it never appeared in the original film), and the factual approach which worked in the novel combined with overly commercial sensibilities and a cheesey (and now very dated) cold-war subplot made the film less than brilliant and not a very naturalistic "sequel" to the first film.

      At one stage I thought 2010 was a good film on its own merits (that is, if you hadn't seen 2001); although you need to know what happened in 2001 to get the most out of it, you could read the novel of it, so this isn't as stupid as it sounds.

      My opinion of it has gone down somewhat, not because it ruins everything in 2001 by explaining it (2010:The Film is really the film of THE NOVEL of 2010; which was a sequel to THE NOVEL of 2001; it makes more sense that way than considering it as a simple sequel to the 2001 film). No, the problems I have with 2010 are:-

      (a) Cheesy cold-war subplot (okay, ACC wrote this for the novel, but the sentimental aspects are ramped up in the film)....
      (b) Hollywood Sentimentality (oh yeah, already mentioned that); not so much because it contrasts with the 2001 film's approach, but because it's formulaic
      (c) Too much a straightforward sci-fi film; hasn't *tried* to do anything as original as Kubrick.
      (d) ...which includes the technology. The original film does *not* have a 1960s tech look; some of the displays are very innovative and original for their time. If they look cliched, it's only because it influenced the look of subsequent films so much. 2010, on the other hand, although in some respects more realistic (less bright lighting) hasn't tried to escape its 1980s origins. As a result, we see Chandra accessing HAL through what looks like a keyboard from a TRS-80 home computer or something; so dull, unimaginative and dated compared to the look and feel that was put into the original (e.g. the memory modules when Dave is deactivating HAL). Ditto the calculator that Heywood uses in 2010. The whole thing looked more dated than 2001 even 10 years after it was made (and 2001 was 26 years old at the same time).
      (e) Didn't they have sound in space in 2010? Yuk!
  • Oof. Sorry (Score:2, Funny)

    by Saturn49 ( 536831 )
    I had chili for dinner. 'scuse me.
  • I heard this when I was a kid watching Forbidden Planet []

    Wow score one for the 1950's science fiction audio producers.
  • It sounds exactly like Space Mountain at Disneyland, you can even hear sounds similar to trains rushing by! How did Walt Know?

  • from the woooooooooo-woooooooooooo dept.

    Mystery solved!
    It's Bubb Rub & Lil' Sis [] checking out their latest dec-o-rashuns.
  • Regardless of those who mock, nitpick, strain at gnats and swallow camels here on /., it's still *cool*. Hearing the "voice" made by a distant planet is thrilling. Sure some nerd can make a similar recording in the basement but this is the real thing.

    Fun stuff!
  • The RIAA on Saturn be suing NASA for all it's worth. Spaceships should be leaving soon to collect or vaporize us all.
  • [] together with some explanation.
  • granular synthesis to change it into audio...granular synthesis ignores phase data, because it is spectral based. If they played an actual recording of the waveform instead of just its spectra, I'm sure it would sound very different and a lot more 'natural'. Right now it sounds like a typical granular synth....grainy
  • I learned to whistle - loud - without the need to stick fingers in my mouth at a fairly young age.

    When I whistle with someone at the same capacity, we can fluxuate the tones in a controlled manner, and the heterodyning sounds (imagine the sound you sometimes hear when tuning into LW radio - wooowhipduuuublebleble) are very loud, and feel like mini pick axes trying to hollow out your head.

    I think it works fairly easily if two people whistle normally next to each other if they can hold a good tone.

    To conf
  • Sound? (Score:2, Insightful)

    In space nobody can hear you scream - but they can hear Saturn?

    Man, that ruins the whole ring it. ^_^

  • That, was a scream from the Planet!

    Don't you hear it? As if to say "I hurt", "I suffer".
  • Did anyone else hear similarities to whalesong?
  • Invented by Russian physicist Leon Theremin in the 1920's, the Theremin [] is not only the predecessor of the synthesizer, it's one of the earliest electronic musical instruments and produces music in relation to the musician's hands in the air! The sound of the Theremin is as eerie as it's beautiful.

    Some audio clips: Star Trek Intro [], Sinners [], Space Cruiser Yamato/Star Blazers [], Heterodyne [] (Commodore64 style!), Rotors of Raga [] (entire archive [])

    You too can build your own Theremin []. For the less tech savvy, yo
  • Glad they heard it because how often can astronomers believe what they see? This Hubble picture? Bah! We've got to hear it! releases/1998/05/ []
  • I thought that sound was coming from Uranus... (Hey, YOU were thinking it too)
  • Ok, is it just me?

    Or is everyone else singing in their head "And the meek shall inherit the Earth"?
  • Not sure why anyone else doesn't understand this as clearly as I do. Saturn is where Hell is. These sounds you are hearing are obviously the moans and cries of the forever damned as they are repeatedly ripped apart. In addition, if you listen to the McGreevy VLF recordings, these are obviously sounds of the doomed souls being dragged to Hell (Saturn) by Satan's minions. Get Yee Hither! Repent!
  • So then Klaus Schulze [] was not just a pioneer of electronic music, but a visionaire - his early albums have parts that sound pretty similar to the Saturn sounds. :-)

    Just kidding, but it's still pretty damn fascinating.
  • One thing that strikes me as odd is the "echo" effect. While other freqs vary wildly, this stays fairly constant. I did the math, 27 minutes to 73 seconds of audio is a reduction by a factor of about 22. Estimating the echo to be at about 6 Hz, that means that the interval between "echo" peaks is about 3.7 seconds. Is that the time for an average field line to accelerate a spiralling particle from one pole to the other? (and back?)
    Or did the scientists throw in an echo effect? That would certainly ke

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