Eric Moore, CUGG
August 12, 2006
Yes, you can even listen to space recordings including planetary magnetic fields and pulsars. This may sound a bit strange as everyone knows (in spite of hours of watching Star Wars and Star Trek) that there is no sound in outer space. So how is this possible? Although there is no air to transmit sound in outer space, many objects are nonetheless noisy…in the electromagnetic sense. Planets and stars are known to emit radio waves which can be converted to sound recordings. Some sounds are fairly regular while others are random noise.
Several web sites have postings of recorded sounds from various celestial objects. One web site that is managed by the University of Manchester Jodrell Bank Observatory has several recordings of radio noise emitted by pulsars. The sound of each pulsar is distinctive. Pulsar PSR B0329+54 rotates a little more than once a second and sounds like a heartbeat. The Vela pulsar rotates about eleven times a second and sounds like a noisy locomotive. The Crab pulsar rotates about thirty times a second and sounds like an outboard motor. Faster pulsars have sounds reminiscent of buzz saws and annoying alarm clocks. (The fastest pulsar listed on this page rotates about 642 times a second.)
You will find these sound recordings at http://www.jb.man.ac.uk/research/pulsar/Education/Sounds/. I must caution you to keep the sound turned down and remove your headphones for the very fast pulsars such as the last two. The recordings are sufficiently high pitched as they could pierce your ears. There is also a link labeled “About Pulsars” where you can learn more about these exotic objects.
Another interesting site hosted by NASA has spooky recordings of radio emissions from our own solar system. You can listen to radio waves emitted by Jupiter (sounding a bit like chirping birds) and other planetary objects at http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/features/halloween_sounds.html.
You can find other interesting sites by searching for “space sounds” through your favorite search engine.