What Creates Eerie Whistling Sounds in Space?

Locating Whistling Space Electrons’ Origins.

What Creates Eerie Whistling Sounds in Space
The Van Allen Belts, shown in green in this illustration, are concentric doughnut-shaped belts filled with charged particles, trapped by Earth’s magnetic field. Credits: Tony Phillips/NASA

There are solar-energized particles trapped around the planet. Those particles sometimes lead to beautiful auroral displays. Scientists are aware of it but they are still unknown to exactly what is responsible for hurling these energetic electrons on their way.

According to a new research, a common plasma wave in space is likely responsible for the impulsive loss of high-energy electrons into Earth’s atmosphere. These waves, also known as whistler mode chorus are occurred due to the fluctuation of electric and magnetic fields.

The waves have characteristic rising whistling sounds reminiscent of the sounds of chirping birds — and are able to efficiently accelerate electrons.

During the study, scientists used data from NASA’s Van Allen Probes mission and FIREBIRD II CubeSat. These two spacecraft found themselves at just the right places at the right time to witness first hand both the impulsive electron loss and its cause.

Aaron Breneman, a researcher at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis said, “Observing the detailed chain of events between chorus waves and electrons requires a conjunction between two or more satellites. There are certain things you can’t learn by having only one satellite — you need simultaneous observations at different locations.”

Using data from FIREBIRD II, which travels at a stature of 310 miles above Earth, and from one of the two Van Allen Tests, which go in a wide circle high over the planet. From various vantage focuses, they could pick up a superior comprehension of the chain of circumstances and end results of the loss of these high-vitality electrons.

A long way from being an unfilled void, the space around Earth is a wilderness of imperceptible fields and little particles. A long way from being an unfilled void, the space around Earth is a wilderness of imperceptible fields and little particles.

Analyzing their movements, Earth’s magnetic environment entangle electrons and ions in concentric belts encircling the planet. These belts called the Van Allen Radiation Belts, keep most of the high-energy particles at bay.

Although, when these particles escape, they tend to tilt down within the atmosphere. Normally, there is a moderate sprinkle of getting away electrons, yet every so often imprudent groups of particles, called microbursts, are scattered out of the belts.

Late on Jan. 20, 2016, the Van Allen Probes observed chorus waves from its lofty vantage point and immediately after, FIREBIRD II saw microbursts. The new results confirm that the chorus waves play an important role in controlling the loss of energetic electrons — one extra piece of the puzzle to understand how high-energy electrons are hurled so violently from the radiation belts. This information can additionally help further improve space weather predictions.