Instruments aboard NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, which nine years ago left the far reaches of our solar system, picked up the faint, monotonous sound of outer space
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Scientists exploring the far reaches of our solar system have detected a strange “buzz”.
The instruments aboard NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, which nine years ago left the far reaches of our solar system, picked up the low, monotonous sound.
Experts said this was due to the constant vibrations of small amounts of gas found in the near vacuum of interstellar space.
It represents the background noise present in the vast expanse between star systems, according to a study published this week in the journal Nature Astronomy.
These vibrations, called persistent plasma waves, have been identified at radio frequencies in a narrow bandwidth over a period of three years as Voyager 1 travels through interstellar space.
Stella Koch Ocker, PhD student in astronomy at Cornell University and lead author of the study, said: “The persistent plasma waves we have just discovered are far too weak to actually be heard with the human ear.
“If we could hear it, it would sound like a single stable note, playing constantly but changing very slightly over time.”
The Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched in September 1977, is currently located about 14.1 billion kilometers from Earth, about 152 times the distance between our planet and the sun, and continues to obtain and transmit data.
Having visited the enormous planets Jupiter and Saturn decades ago, Voyager 1 now provides a glimpse into interstellar space.
Voyager 1 has previously detected gas disturbances in interstellar space triggered by occasional flares from our sun.
The new study reveals stable vibrations unrelated to solar activity that could be a constant feature in interstellar space.
This hum has a frequency of about 3 kilohertz (kHz).
“When the oscillations of the plasma are converted into an audio signal, it looks like a varying tone. It’s a bit strange,” said James Cordes, professor of astronomy at Cornell University and co-author of the study.
“Voyager 1 will continue, but its power supply will most likely run out this decade after up to 50 years of service.
“Conceptual designs are underway for future probes aimed at going beyond the Voyager spacecraft.
“This is the message that I find appealing: our reach extends into interstellar space.”