June 8, 2023


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Listen to the sounds of the universe. NASA launches an innovative project

“In space no one can hear you scream,” says the famous slogan, but that does not mean that Earth’s environment is silent. Solar Physics Checked: Resonance in Plasmas (HARP) It’s a new NASA project, which converts ultra-frequency waves into audible beeps, beeps, and other strange sounds. The first tests of this technology are promising, and everyone can join the sonic space exploration by entering on a dedicated site.

What excites me most about HARP is the opportunity for citizen scientists to make new discoveries in heliophysical research through sound analysis. We need to help them understand the complex patterns in the near-Earth space environment.Dr. Michael Hartinger, a heliophysicist at the Colorado Space Science Institute

NASA is listening to the sounds of space

Although the void of space is empty and no sound can travel through it, the space between Earth and the Sun is not completely “empty”. It is filled with a mixture of charged particles, or plasma, from our star, which are ejected in a continuous stream called the solar wind. When it hits Earth, not only does it make us see auroras, but magnetic field lines vibrate like strings on a harp. Waves are generated with a very low detectable frequency.

In 2007, NASA launched five satellites as part of the mission Chronological history of major events and interactions during substorms (THEMIS). They studied how plasma and energy moving through Earth’s environment cause different types of aurorae (northern and southern). In 2010, two spacecraft were flown in to study the lunar environment, but the other three continue to study Earth’s magnetosphere and aurora borealis. The wave frequencies measured by THEMIS are too low to be heard, but the HARP project has accelerated them accordingly.

The process of identifying new traits through deep listening is like a treasure hunt. I’m excited that people around the world can get a taste of this experience through Project HARP.Robert Alexander, HARP team member at Auralab Technologies in Michigan

HARP was inspired by an earlier sonication project called MUSICS (Magnetospheric Ripples Composed by Citizen Scientists) that focused on plasma waves associated with solar storms. Preliminary data collected during the HARP project has already revealed unexpected features, such as what is called an “inverted harp”—frequencies change in the opposite direction expected.

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Scientists hope that the HARP project will provide interesting insights into phenomena that other astronomers around the world have found. Speech, among other things about sounds captured by the amateurs involved in the HamSCI project, or the “auroras” studied by the Aurorasaurus Project.