Listen to Saturn interact with its moon Enceladus in deep space


Enceladus and Saturn.
Enceladus and Saturn.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech 

A planet and its moon are getting chatty in deep space. 

A new video from NASA shows off the complicated interactions between plasma waves moving from Saturn to its moon Enceladus and back. 

The new video, produced by converting plasma wave data into sound waves, shows that the plasma actually moves along magnetic field lines, like energy moving between the two bodies, NASA said.

“Enceladus is this little generator going around Saturn, and we know it is a continuous source of energy,” planetary scientist Ali Sulaiman said in a NASA statement

“Now we find that Saturn responds by launching signals in the form of plasma waves, through the circuit of magnetic field lines connecting it to Enceladus hundreds of thousands of miles away.”

The video was created using data collected by NASA’s dearly departed Cassini spacecraft in September 2017, just before it plunged into Saturn’s thick atmosphere, ending its mission and burning up in the process. 

The sounds captured in the video are pretty creepy, but there’s an odd musical element to them thanks to a somewhat strange crackly sound that comes in about halfway through the video.

That said, if you were to fly between the moon and its planet, it’s not as if you’d hear exactly these sounds in outer space. 

NASA engineers had to do a lot of cleanup to get the 1-minute, 16-second recording they released on Monday. 

“Researchers converted the recording of plasma waves into a “whooshing” audio file that we can hear — in the same way a radio translates electromagnetic waves into music,” NASA said in the statement. 

“In other words, Cassini detected electromagnetic waves in the audio frequency range — and on the ground, we can amplify and play those signals through a speaker. The recording time was compressed from 16 minutes to 28.5 seconds.”

Enceladus is considered one of the most interesting places in the solar system to one day hunt for life. 

The small moon is thought to have a subsurface ocean that may actually be habitable for microbial organisms. Cassini even flew through a plume of the water erupted into space from a crack in the surface of the icy moon. 

One day, perhaps a space agency will send a submersible to the distant planet and its moon to learn even more about what exactly is going on within Enceladus, and how Saturn may play a role.

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