Is There Sound in Space?

Sound in space cover

If you happen to be a fan of science fiction movies and TV shows, firstly you have great taste and secondly, you have heard really loud explosions which inevitably happens because those movies have either aliens or human error blowing something up but something is always causing an explosion. If it’s not that someone is yelling at another person and they are able to hear them easily even with the spacesuits on. While watching these we are completely absorbed in it that we ignore the fact these sounds are behaving exactly as they do on Earth but is it really what happens? More importantly, is there even sound in space? Well, yes and no.

No Sound

First, let’s look into science fiction and see if there is any sound in the space. The way we are able to hear anything on Earth is because of the atmosphere where sound travels in a medium, whether it be air or water. Once a sound is produced from a source it travels by colliding with tiny particles present in the air and this initiates a chain reaction that slowly starts to fade as the distance increases, while these colliding tiny particles generate vibrations which are then received by our ears and converted by our brain in order to make a sound that we can understand.

Sound how it works

How sound wave travels and work.

However, space is quite different from Earth, and to begin with, it doesn’t have any tiny particles, it doesn’t even have air. It is a perfect vacuum, which means it is devoid of any matter. So collisions, explosions, rocket propulsion, and so on do not produce any sound whatsoever in space, and ultimately, the concept of sound is understood in a completely wrong way by the filmmakers or maybe they do understand it but produce these effects for the audience.

Space Roar

In the past, the previously mentioned explanation was said to be true and it was like that for many years, only other planets with any kind of atmosphere had the capability to have any kind of sound. However, scientists were completely puzzled and shocked in the year 2006 to detect a roar-like sound from space with a balloon instrument known as Absolute Radiometer for Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Diffuse Emission (ARCADE) in the form of radio waves. It was present at 37 kilometers from the surface of Earth. Cosmologists predicted a set of data for the signal, however, it turned out to be six times louder than the predictions and it being too loud ensured scientists that early stars were not producing it. Even more fascinating was that it was greater than the predicted combined sounds from the distant galaxies.

NASA arcade

A representation of NASA’s ARCADE.

ARCADE was initially designed to detect cosmic background in the space to detect the stars that were formed near the time of the big bang and in order to do complex instruments were installed on ARCADE. As the light travels over millions of kilometers in space, after traveling for so long it tends to lose some of its energy and gets converted into radio waves. Unlike the previous telescope, ARCADE could even measure the brightness of whatever was observed by it. This was when the space roar was heard and confused scientists as its strength were greater than numerous galaxies combined, so they figured it might be from multiple sources diffused together. Synchrotron Radiation was considered to be the cause of this screeching sound.

Synchrotron Radiation: The electromagnetic radiation that is emitted when highly charged particles are traveling near the speed of light in curved paths. It could also happen when the said particles change their direction due to a magnetic field or some other force, this produces roars of varying wavelengths.

Synchrotron Radiation

A representation of Synchrotron Radiation.

For years scientists have been confused by the background cosmic noises of various planets and other celestial bodies and it is hard to pinpoint at a certain source because they are made by various sources. However, this space roar was unlike any other and far stronger. Efforts are being put into detecting and monitoring these specific cosmic backgrounds in the future, compared to today’s instruments which deem it as a secondary objective. As of today, 15 years after the detection of the space roar we are still unsure where it came from.

To answer the question, is there sound in space? There most certainly is sound in space, just not the way we are familiar with it. If we focus on the cosmic radiations, the universe is a sonorous place and who knows with the advancements in technology one day we might be able to figure out the source of this space roar, and perhaps it’d be something beyond our imagination.


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