A Spacecraft Launched 39 Years Ago Has Human Sounds Onboard — Now We Can Listen
Carl Sagan was one of the people who helped shape this recording that might just end up in the hands of some other beings, somewhere out there.
The Voyager record, image public domain
Voyager 1 and 2 were launched in 1977, with the idea that, after a little exploration of our own solar system, they'd keep going and going into the "billions and billions" of stars. Wherein maybe, just maybe, they'd find an alien civilization to bump into.
Anticipating that, both Voyagers carried with them, housed in a sturdy aluminum jacket, a copper record plated with gold, and it had multiple hours of human sounds — music, words, and even analog images. (Since this was 1977, the images are encoded on the record, and have to be decoded. DVDs and MP3s didn't exist then, you see. Does that make you feel old? It does me.)
The primary missions of both Voyager spacecraft were to explore Jupiter and Saturn (Voyager 1) and Uranus and Neptune (Voyager 2), but the folks behind the mission knew that after completing those primary missions in 1989 — 12 years after their launch — they would be sent on the Voyager Interstellar Mission to explore space beyond our solar system. Carl Sagan was head of the NASA committee that decided what that whole golden record thing would look and sound like.
There were 12 copies of it made, all but 2 of which went to NASA entities, and one to then-President Carter. (No, Carl Sagan never received one.)
The other 2, of course, are onboard the crafts designed to carry them far beyond our solar system.
And so they have: Both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 have made it to interstellar space. They're now about 20 billion kilometers away from Earth (V1) and 16 billion (V2).
The location of the record on the spacecraft. Image public domain.
So ... what's on that record?
Music — everything from Beethoven to Chuck Berry to a Peruvian wedding song, 118 images, and greetings in almost 60 human languages — and 1 whale language. Plus animal sounds, thunder, morse code, and more.
It was available for a short time as a CD-ROM in 1992, you can find various snippets of the record online, and some of the sounds were released by NASA to Soundcloud, but this is the first time it can be available for us all back on Earth who haven't heard it, because there's a Kickstarter by Ozma Records to make all of that available for us Earthlings to hear; when it succeeds, we can look forward to listening to — and seeing — the same things as whatever beings Voyager 1 and 2 encounter in their travels.
The project intends to release it on vinyl (a 3-record non-gold set), as well as in MP3 format.
Hat tip to the New York Times.
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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