It’s not the whoosh of a ghost’s cloak across a creaky floor, nor is it the sinister soundtrack to a classic horror flick. These eerie sounds are radio broadcasts resulting from close encounters of the third kind.
Last week, NASA released a 22-track playlist of “Spooky Sounds from Across the Solar System” to help you get into the Halloween spirit. From the screech of interstellar plasma to the cacophony of lightning on Jupiter, the playlist is comprised of converted radio emissions captured by an a-list group of NASA’s roaming spacecraft including Voyager, Cassini, and Juno.
I won’t lie: I spent the afternoon listening to the unearthly noises of the outer solar system and was enthralled by the strange warbles, Darth Vader-esque exhales, and 1970s-ish synth sounds of space exploration. If you’re like me, you you might find yourself hunting for more information about Jupiter’s magnetosphere or staring at pictures of Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth-largest moon, as you listen to the howls of the Cassini spacecraft flying by these stellar objects.
The playlist ends fittingly with “Voyager Plasma Sounds,” captured by the eponymous twin spacecraft that were launched in 1977. Each Voyager carries a copy of the Golden Record, a 12-inch, gold-plated record inscribed with images and sounds intended to communicate life on Earth to extraterrestrials.
According to NASA’s website, the Golden Record assembles “115 images and a variety of natural sounds…musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages, and printed messages from [US] president [Jimmy] Carter and UN secretary general [Kurt] Waldheim.” Now 40 years into the mission, Voyager 1 has entered interstellar space and Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to have visited Uranus and Neptune.
NASA has been intent on sharing Earth-sounds with extraterrestrials out in the universe; but now it is also sharing the sounds of the universe with us. Even ghouls and goblins should get a bit of holiday cheer from that.