These are the "sounds of space" collected by UIowa instruments on various spacecraft.

Sound in Space?

What do we mean by "sound" in space?

Pressure waves like those in the atmosphere that we normally think of as sound do not propagate at audible frequencies in the extremely low density gases that fill space. However these low density gases, typically a few to a few hundred particles per cubic centimeter, are mostly charged, so the particles can interact at a distance via electric and magnetic fields. Mix in rotating planetary and solar magnetic fields, sources and sinks of particles, ionizing radiation and other sources of energy, and an orchestra of wave modes arise. Many of these plasma waves occur naturally at audible frequencies, although a human would not be able to hear them in space because the pressure is far too low. They are associated with moving particles, so, theoretically, an ultra-sensitive microphone might be able to record some plasma waves. In practice, the oscillating electric and magnetic field components are very easy to detect with antennas, so that is what we do. These waveforms can simply be played back as audio through a speaker without any modification.

In other cases, for example auroral kilometric radiation, radio waves which propagate above the frequencies of plasma waves (with no particles involved in their propagation) are recorded and played back more slowly, shifting their high frequencies down into the range of human hearing.

For a more formal introduction to waves in space plasmas, see the tutorial article by Dr. William Kurth.

For a very accessible introduction to space audio, see "What Space Sounds Like - ACOUSTICS" from The Point Studios on YouTube. (And while we're on the topic, note that there are a huge number of fake space sound videos on YouTube. Beware! The planets don't actually emit meditation music.)

Oh, and be sure to explore all of the examples below!

Featured Items

Start with these.

Voyager 1 PWS continuation of shock-associated waves Voyager 1 PWS first interstellar audio recordings
Ongoing observations of shock-associated waves
favorite sounds Selected Sounds of Space
A sampling of Don Gurnett's favorite sounds of space
Van Allen Probes Van Allen Probes EMFISIS Waves or EMFISIS MAG audio samples
Audio clips from the twin Van Allen Probes
Juno Juno Waves audio samples
Starting with Juno crossing Jupiter's bow shock

Extended Samples

If sound bites aren't enough, try these longer selections.

Voyager-1: Jupiter Encounter Voyager-1: Jupiter Encounter
The complete day Voyager 1 spent at Jupiter
Voyager-2: Arrival at Jupiter Voyager-2: Arrival at Jupiter
The clash of the solar wind with Jupiter's immense magnetosphere
Voyager-1: Saturn Encounter Voyager-1: Saturn Encounter
Saturn encounter, November 12-13, 1980
Voyager-2: Saturn Encounter Voyager-2: Saturn Encounter
The entire Saturn encounter from August 24 to September 7, 1981
Voyager-2: Uranus Encounter Voyager-2: Uranus Encounter
Uranus flyby from January 23 to 29, 1986
Voyager-2: Neptune Encounter Voyager-2: Neptune Encounter
Neptune flyby from August 23 to 25, 1989


Here's a collection of older features.

Saturn Lightning Cassini Listens to Lightning at Saturn
The crackle and pop of lightning deep in the planet's atmosphere
Saturn Kilometric Radiation Cassini Observes Saturn Kilometric Radiation
The eerie sounds and bizarre features of Saturn's radio emissions
Voyager termination shock Voyager Termination Shock
Plasma wave sounds at the solar wind termination shock
Saturn bow shock Cassini Encounters Saturn's Bow Shock
Where the solar wind collides with Saturn's magnetic field
Saturn rotation Radio Rotation of Saturn from Cassini RPWS Measurements
The puzzling change in Saturn's radio rotation period
Sun Rings Lecture Sounds of Space and the Kronos Quartet "Sun Rings"
The pre-performance presentation
Kronos Sun Rings Terry Riley's "Sun Rings" performed by the Kronos Quartet
The musical production inspired by sounds of space
Heliospheric Radio Emissions Heliospheric Radio Emissions Detected by Voyager
Audio from the edge of the solar system
Type III Radio Bursts Type III Radio Bursts from the Oct 28 and Nov 4, 2003, Solar Flares
The signatures of record-setting solar eruptions
Sounds of the Magnetosphere Sounds of the Magnetosphere
Sounds collected by the Polar spacecraft
Sounds of space Sounds of Space
General information

Related Links

These are our related research projects.

Social Media

More sources of space audio public outreach . . .

Creative Commons License The audio files found at this site are available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

In space we can hear plasma scream!