If you’re like many people, your curiosity was piqued when news broke that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had detected a faint humming sound in interstellar space – but what is it?
NASA’s Discovery of a Distant Humming in Space
Faint but constant vibrations were first detected by the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which has been in space for more than 40 years. It’s currently the most distant human-made object in space, and it’s feeding data to NASA that nobody ever expected to receive; the craft was only supposed to last five years – long enough to study Jupiter and Saturn, Saturn’s rings, and the larger moons of the two planets.
Voyager 1 currently hangs out in a region of space called the heliosphere – a protective bubble that encloses all the planets in our solar system. It’s essentially the only tool we Earthlings have to directly sampling interstellar space.
And nobody knows where the humming is coming from. It was measured through ripples of plasma in the interstellar medium – a mix of gases, radiation and the same particles that make up the space between stars. It’s operating on a narrow frequency bandwidth, and a lot of scientists are excited because it may be able to tell us how our solar system interacts with everything beyond it.
Scientists have distinguished this hum from other things Voyager 1 has detected, and they know for sure that it’s not from the sun. The sun has its own, distinctive signature when it makes ripples in outer space – and this humming isn’t that.