It’s deathly quiet in the vacuum of space, save only for the faint whisper of gravitational waves.
However, space scientists sometimes take signals from beyond the mortal realm of human senses – including radio waves, plasma waves, and magnetic fields – and convert them into audio tracks.
This clever hack is called data sonification, and it helps researchers “hear” what’s going on with their far-flung spacecraft around planets, moons, comets, and other locations.
The results are often ear-splitting, but sometimes the audio is downright scary.
Just in time for Halloween, NASA on Thursday released a compilation of 22 outer-space sounds “that is sure to make your skin crawl,” the space agency said in a release.
Here are a handful of the spookiest tracks and what they represent.
“Juno: Crossing Jupiter’s bow shock”
NASA’s Juno probe zips around Jupiter every few weeks at speeds of up to 130,000 mph, plowing through all kinds of invisible fields in the process.
One of the strongest unseen signals the robot has encountered is Jupiter’s bow shock: the point where the planet’s magnetic field pushes back against a howling wind of incoming particles from the sun, creating something akin to a sonic boom.
This audio is about two hours’ worth of electric field signal compressed into a few seconds, and it’s eerie.
“Kepler: Star KIC12268220C light curve waves to sound”
The Kepler space telescope stared down roughly 100,000 stars for years, looking for faint signals of orbiting planets – and found at least 10 that might be Earth-like.
Here’s what data on the lone star system KIC12268220C, originally recorded as light, sounds like.
“Stardust: Passing comet Tempel 1”
This is one of the few true audio-like recordings from space: the sound caused by the Stardust spacecraft passing through the dust of comet Tempel 1, pinging the robot’s body with debris. However, it sounds more like a creature rapping at the window sill or scurrying across a hard floor.
“Cassini: Saturn radio emissions #1”
This mysterious (and scary) audio track is actually radio waves being emitted by the giant planet through a phenomenon not too dissimilar to the one that causes auroras on Earth.
“Plasmaspheric Hiss” by NASA’s Polar satellite
Earth is surrounded in plasma: hot, ionized particles generated by sunlight slamming into the atmosphere. NASA’s Polar mission, launched in 1996, recorded this breath-like hiss of plasma as it orbited our planet.
“Beware of Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede”
NASA doesn’t say which spacecraft recorded these weird radio emissions from Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, but it was likely the Galileo spacecraft (which orbited the system for about 8 years).
Whatever the case, turning the data into audio makes it sound like screams trying to break through from an ethereal plane.
Listen to NASA’s complete playlist of “Spooky Sounds from Across the Solar System” on SoundCloud, below.