A new paper reveals that the Voyager 1 spacecraft detected a constant hum coming from outside our Solar System.
- Voyager 1, humankind's most distant space probe, detected an unusual "hum" in the data from interstellar space.
- The noise is likely produced by interstellar gas.
- Further investigation may reveal the hum's exact origins.
Voyager 1, humanity's most faraway spacecraft, has detected an unusual "hum" coming from outside our solar system. Fourteen billion miles away from Earth, the Voyager's instruments picked up a droning sound that may be caused by plasma (ionized gas) in the vast emptiness of interstellar space. Launched in 1977, the Voyager 1 space probe — along with its twin Voyager 2 — has been traveling farther and farther into space for over 44 years. It has now breached the edge of our solar system, exiting the heliosphere, the bubble-like region of space influenced by the sun. Now, the spacecraft is moving through the "interstellar medium," where it recorded the peculiar sound.
Stella Koch Ocker, a doctoral student in astronomy at Cornell University, discovered the sound in the data from the Voyager's Plasma Wave System (PWS), which measures electron density. Ocker called the drone coming from plasma shock waves "very faint and monotone," likely due to the narrow bandwidth of its frequency.
While they think the persistent background hum may be coming from interstellar gas, the researchers don't yet know what exactly is causing it. It might be produced by "thermally excited plasma oscillations and quasi-thermal noise."
The new paper from Ocker and her colleagues at Cornell University and the University of Iowa, published in Nature Astronomy, also proposes that this is not the last we'll hear of the strange noise. The scientists write that "the emission's persistence suggests that Voyager 1 may be able to continue tracking the interstellar plasma density in the absence of shock-generated plasma oscillation events."
Voyager Captures Sounds of Interstellar Space www.youtube.com
The researchers think the droning sound may hold clues to how interstellar space and the heliopause, which can be thought of as the solar's system border, may be affecting each other. When it first entered interstellar space, the PWS instrument reported disturbances in the gas caused by the sun. But in between such eruptions is where the researchers spotted the steady signature made by the near-vacuum.
Senior author James Cordes, a professor of astronomy at Cornell, compared the interstellar medium to "a quiet or gentle rain," adding that "in the case of a solar outburst, it's like detecting a lightning burst in a thunderstorm and then it's back to a gentle rain."
More data from Voyager over the next few years may hold crucial information to the origins of the hum. The findings are already remarkable considering the space probe is functioning on technology from the mid-1970s. The craft has about 70 kilobytes of computer memory. It also carries a Golden Record created by a committee chaired by the late Carl Sagan, who taught at Cornell University. The 12-inch gold-plated copper disk record is essentially a time capsule, meant to tell the story of Earthlings to extraterrestrials. It contains sounds and images that showcase the diversity of Earth's life and culture.
From anti-gravity pens to cool model kits, these space-themed gifts will make any star gazer very happy.
- Since the dawn of time humans have been fascinated with the stars and with space.
- This gift guide will help you shop for the NASA fan on your list.
- From socks to laser projectors, there is something for space fans of all ages.
Long before we had the technology to go, humans have been dreaming of space and everything beyond our sky. Gazing at the stars, watching astronauts travel to the moon, and seeing machines launched to distant rocks and planets has inspired many to want to learn more about astronomy and to pursue careers in science. Those space fans deserve something special, and we have just the things for them.
This gift guide is specifically for space fans and those who hope to one day enter orbit. From the original space pen to a levitating moon lamp, the items chosen for this list are well-reviewed and available to purchase online. Some are designed to be educational, while others are just cool objects meant to show off how much you love space.
Everyone needs socks, but only the coolest people deserve these space themed novelty socks. This four-pack features rockets, a diagram of the solar system, a fun math design, and an astronaut posing on the moon. If you have to keep your feet on the ground, you might as well do it in style.
Switch things up from the classic blue NASA logo and gift someone a new tee with a throwback feel. The graphic on this officially licensed Popfunk tee looks to be inspired by the 1980s, the decade that saw the Space Shuttle Discovery launched into orbit for the first time.
You don't have to go to space to write like a real astronaut. In the mid-1960s, the Fisher Pen Company reportedly spent $1 million developing anti gravity pens with pressurized cartridges inside that meant they were capable of writing upside down, in hot and cold temperatures, and underwater. They offered the pens to NASA and after some testing the space agency ordered hundreds for its Apollo astronauts.
Magnetic levitation always looks cool, but the LEVILUNA lamp is able to blend aesthetics with the practicality of a small light source. The small orb is made using 3D printing. The result is a highly detailed replica of Earth's moon that floats between 8-12mm above its wooden base. It can also illuminate a desk or nightstand with a soft glow.
See physics and magnets at work while you stare at this colorful and wonderfully nerdy toy. It requires one 9V battery (not included) and some assembly, but once it gets going it doesn't stop.
BlissLight's Sky Lite fills any space with a bright blue nebula cloud pattern and drifting stars. The pattern can be changed to just the cloud, just the stars, a combination of the two, or constant stars with a pulsing cloud effect. There is also a built-in timer that can turn the device off automatically after 6 hours. It's the perfect night light for someone who is obsessed with all things cosmic.
Written by a planetary scientist, this best-selling book demonstrates various ways to view the stars and other space objects with or without special equipment. It is also filled with fun facts, explainers, and clear illustrations of planets and constellations.
This 837-piece LEGO kit allows builders to be rocket engineers as well as the mission control crew for a miniature launch without ever leaving the comfort of his/her home. There are six minifigures in the set, including astronauts, scientists, a Launch Director, and a ground crew technician, each with a very important job to do. Kids ages 7 and up will be inspired to learn more about what it takes to put a heavy rocket into orbit and about the men and women who make it happen.
Advertised as being for entry level astronomers, this portable telescope expands the user's connection with and access to the cosmos. It comes with bonus educational software that star gazers can use to discover more about when and where space objects can be seen in the sky.
National Geographic's Solar Space Explorers kit comes with sheets of wood that have been laser-cut into small parts. Together the pieces and included gear components form two solar-powered vehicles: the Mars Rover and a Moon Buggy. Whether they're being made to race down the driveway or sitting statically on a shelf, these vehicles are fun to construct and cool to look at. It's basic engineering and moon exploration rolled into one package.
Using official photos from the NASA archives, this adult coloring book is not your average stay-in-the-lines kind of activity book. It includes 35 NASA-captured images of planets and solar flares for reference and/or inspiration. Space fans can choose to color the images true to life, or they can let their imaginations run free across the pages.
These mugs use a heat-changing technique that hides constellations among the stars until a hot liquid is poured inside. There are 11 constellations in total, including Andromeda, Scorpius, and Hercules. When you want the figures to go away, just chill the mug and everything but the stars will fade away.
There's life before PopSockets and there's life after PopSockets. Wrapping a finger around this accessory while holding a mobile device provides a more secure grip while texting, watching movies, or reading BigThink.com. The variety of designs lets anyone add their own personal flare, and the top portions are swappable so the owner is allowed to change their mind.
The meteorites at the Campo Del Cielo crater field in Argentina are believed to have impacted over 4000 years ago. Actual pieces of the space rock have been modified with a metal loop and a wax cord so that they can be work as a necklace. Each quarter-sized meteorite pendant is unique and only weighs around 7 grams so it is barely noticeable. The necklaces come with certificates of authenticity and tiny chests for storing or displaying when they are not being worn.
This hefty book is 468 pages of NASA history told through essays and over 400 stunning high resolution images from the agency's archives. Even the biggest NASA nerds will learn something new from this impressive tome as they flip through its pages over and over again.
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What can cause a ripple in both space and time? Neutron stars colliding. And what can observe that phenomenon? A two-mile-long laser.
Michell Thaller, the Assistant Director of Science Communication at NASA, wanted to talk to us about a heavy subject matter. Specifically, super-dense neutron stars that are so dense that they're only the size of New York City but carry the weight of the sun. And when they circle each other in orbit for long enough, they collide with enough force to send ripples in both space and time. Those ripples alone are strong enough to alter the course of light. In fact, just a few years ago a rare astronomical event occurred where you'd have seen a star "blink" for a few minutes on and off before disappearing for good. Scientists are able to detect these gravitational ripples thanks to a LIGO, or a Laser Interferometric Gravitational-Wave Observatory, which measures the refraction of light based on gravity waves. Oh, and one more thing: Albert Einstein correctly deduced that this phenomenon years before it was ever recorded. If you'd like to know more, visit NASA.
Two Canadian astronomers publish a paper with an extraordinary claim of possibly detecting alien signals.
Two Canadian astronomers published a study that claims an anomaly in the pulsing of a group of stars is possibly evidence of an alien civilization. It’s easy to be skeptical of any such proposals but the scientists really do consider an extraterrestrial involvement as one of the potential explanations to what they’ve observed.
The scientists Ermanno Borra and Eric Trottier from the Université Laval in Quebec analyzed modulations in 2.5 million stars from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey project and concluded that 234 of them exhibited strange behavior. In fact, the stars seemed to be signaling, with the conceivable explanation that it’s aliens trying to make contact. This theory was bolstered by the conclusion that the 234 signals perfectly matched the shape of an extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) signal, predicted by Borra’s previous study.
Also working in their favor is the sheer specificity of the sample - 234 stars out of 2.5 million emit a very specific signal, something that fits into previous ETI models.
“We find that the detected signals have exactly the shape of an [extraterrestrial intelligence] signal predicted in the previous publication and are therefore in agreement with this hypothesis,” the scientists write in their paper. “The fact that they are only found in a very small fraction of stars within a narrow spectral range centered near the spectral type of the sun is also in agreement with the ETI hypothesis.”
The scientists do acknowledge that other explanations are possible for the weird signals, like “rotational transitions in molecules” or “rapid pulsations” or maybe even the unusual chemistry of a small group of galactic halo stars.
But you know it’s aliens.
Also thinking that this is worth a closer look is the Breakthrough Listen Initiative, a $100 million program aimed at looking for intelligent life in space. It's headlined by Stephen Hawking and Mark Zuckerberg. The group announced that it will look into the findings of the Canadian astronomers further, but would like to see some independent proof.
In its statement, Breakthrough Listen summarized its goals with respect to the strange signals:
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It is too early to unequivocally attribute these purported signals to the activities of extraterrestrial civilizations.”
“Internationally agreed-upon protocols for searches for evidence of advanced life beyond Earth (SETI) require candidates to be confirmed by independent groups using their own telescopes, and for all natural explanations to be exhausted before invoking extraterrestrial agents as an explanation.”
The study is published in the Solar and Stellar Astrophysics journal.
Here is the announcement of the objectives for the Breakthrough Initiatives by the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking: