This is the "sound" of Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system

This is the “sound” of Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system

NASA has transformed data collected by the Juno probe into an audio clip that allows you to listen to its approach to the moon of Jupiter.

Space is full of fascinating objects, and you don’t necessarily have to venture light years from Earth. In its direct vicinity, one can already find fascinating objects such as the colossal Jupiter and its 79 moons. And among them is hiding the largest satellite in the solar system, whose Juno probe brought us a rather special postcard: here is the sound of Ganymede!

The data behind this extract were collected on June 7, during the first passage of the Juno probe in more than twenty years. Flirting with this immense mass of ice and rock, the craft used an instrument called Waves to capture a whole set of electromagnetic waves. NASA has chosen to present them in audio format; to do this, it simply shifted the frequency of the electromagnetic wave until it reached the audible range.

It is a sleight of hand that the agency often resorts to with data like this. Indeed, these electromagnetic spectra are extremely abstract for the general public; even if that doesn’t make them more intelligible, presenting them in audio form at least makes them more tangible. In any case, it is an exhilarating experience for the astronomers in charge of Juno. “This soundtrack is just crazy enough to make you feel like you’re aboard Juno as it passes near Ganymede”Enthuses Scott Bolton, chief engineer of the mission.

Listen to what you can’t see

But this recording may only be a transposition of other data, it is not without interest for all that. For researchers, it’s also a way of viewing their results from a completely different perspective – much like a doctor examining their patient in addition to viewing their EKG machine. In particular, this allows them to spot details that might have gone unnoticed.

For example, we can clearly distinguish certain audio peaks that correspond to changes in the surrounding conditions as Juno passes. “If you listen carefully, you can hear the abrupt changes in frequency that correspond to the passages in different regions of Ganymede’s magnetosphere.”, Specifies the researcher.

In addition to this audio clip, which is arguably the most telling element to the general public, Juno has also collected a lot of additional information on Jupiter’s magnetosphere since its launch in 2011. This data is invaluable in understanding the internal dynamics of Jupiter, which is notably responsible for the superb volutes and convolutions that we observe on its surface.

Juno therefore continues to act as a go-between between this gaseous titan and NASA. And if all goes well, she will continue to shower us with exceptional images and data at least until 2025, when she should initially have retired four years ago already. It will then complete an anthology mission, which has contributed more than any other to our knowledge of this remote region of the solar system.

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