Listen to the Mournful Wails of Planets and Moons

Christopher Davidson
July 12, 2018

The fresh evidence of the interaction between Saturn and its moon was fortunately captured just two weeks before Cassini made its final plunge, and University of Iowa planetary scientist Ali Salaiman noted that astronomers now know that when Enceladus pushes out energy, Saturn responds in kind by sending plasma waves to this moon. (And ours.) We now know that Cassini also recorded a soundtrack of sorts-data that has now yielded a series of thrillingly eerie whooshes and warbles that represent the relationship between the ringed planet and Enceladus, one of its moons.

Sulaiman et al found a powerful interaction of plasma waves moving from Saturn to its rings and Enceladus.

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.

NASA said the plasma waves were detected on September 2, 2017, about two weeks before Cassini ended its mission with a bang by deliberately crashing into Saturn.

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NASA said researchers converted those plasma waves into an audio file "in the same way a radio translates electromagnetic waves into music".

Normally, it takes a medium like air or water to transmit sound energy, but in this case the energy was being transmitted by waves of plasma that connect Saturn and Enceladus. The recording you can hear below captures 16 minutes of these waves, compressed to 28.5 seconds.

Sulaiman is lead author of two papers on this discovery. Enceladus auroral hiss emissions during Cassini's Grand Finale.

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