Earth’s Plasma Waves Actually As Noisy As Inhabitants

By Nick Venable | 9 years ago

In space, no one can hear Earth scream. That is, unless you happen to have an extra Electric and Magnetic Field Instrument Suite and Integrated Science (EMFISIS) receiver. NASA has two, and they’ve recorded the Earth’s “chorus,” the sound of oscillating radio waves projected by the plasma radiation in the Van Allen Radiation Belt.

Take a listen here.

EMFISIS is actually one of two receivers strapped to Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP), sent into orbit to collect data on the physical dynamics of these radiation belts with hopes of finding patterns providing scientists the capability of making future predictions about said belts.

The sounds recorded, dubbed “Earth’s Song,” bear no resemblance to Michael Jackson. The noises are in 16-bit mono, similar to CD-quality audio out of one speaker, are less like a song, and more like a bunch of crickets with a ’50s science fiction sound effects program. Not that it wouldn’t be easy to sample it into a hip hop track, but that aspiring artist might want to wait until the higher resolution stereo recording is released when the RBSP mission is complete.

Lest anyone thinks that NASA has got its eyes on a Grammy award, the information gleaned from these recordings will actually assist in discovering how these plasma waves affect molecules within the belt. “Killer electrons,” which occasionally apepar amidst the majority of harmless electrons, contain high amounts of energy thought to be caused by these chorus waves, and can potentially damage anything passing through the area, such as satellites and astronaut-manned spacecraft. Hopefully this mission will prove or disprove those theories and lead to safer missions in years to come.

But for now, we can light a few candles, slip into a silky robe, and let the squeaky sounds of Van Allen take you to that special place.