Last updated July 25, 2018 at 2:54 pm
Cassini captured haunting sounds from the plasma waves moving around Saturn, its rings, and Enceladus.
NASA’s Saturn-studying satellite Cassini is still delivering surprises a year after its demise. A week after revealing complex organic molecules on Enceladus, researchers have now released spooky sounds captured from around Saturn just 2 weeks before Cassini’s death plunge into the planet.
The sounds are created by surprisingly powerful and dynamic plasma waves moving from Saturn to its rings and its moon Enceladus.
The plasma waves were detected in the audio frequency range and were converted into an audio file in the same way a radio translates electromagnetic waves into music. The recording time was compressed from 16 minutes to 28.5 seconds.
A web of plasma waves
The observations from Cassini show for the first time that the plasma waves travel on magnetic field lines connecting Saturn directly to Enceladus. The field lines are like an electrical circuit between the two bodies, with energy flowing back and forth.
“Enceladus is this little generator going around Saturn, and we know it is a continuous source of energy,” said Ali Sulaiman, a planetary scientist at the University of Iowa who was part of the research team.
“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 interaction of Saturn and Enceladus is different from the relationship of Earth and its Moon. Enceladus is immersed in Saturn’s magnetic field and is geologically active, emitting plumes of water vapor that become ionized and fill the environment around Saturn. Our own Moon does not interact in the same way with Earth. Similar interactions take place between Saturn and its rings, as they are also very dynamic.
The recording was captured Sept. 2, 2017, two weeks before Cassini was deliberately plunged into the atmosphere of Saturn.
Video courtesy of NASA-JPL