Today, Cassini prepares to once again boldly go where no spacecraft has gone before: into the gap between Saturn and its rings. While we’re all excited to see the the results of Cassini’s second dive, astronomers are still parsing through the findings from her first. And some, including a soundscape generated from the emptiness, are pretty freaky.
Apparently, the orbiter’s fist dive between Saturn and the gas giant’s rings, on April 26th, revealed that this mysterious, unexplored region is pretty much devoid of particles. Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize called it “the big empty,” which sounds like something from Stranger Things, but you know, in space.
“The region between the rings and Saturn is ‘the big empty,’ apparently,” he said in a statement. “Cassini will stay the course, while the scientists work on the mystery of why the dust level is much lower than expected.”
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Cassini’s mission into the “big empty” was the “sounds” it picked up from particles — or lack thereof — in the gap. According to NASA, Cassini’s Radio and Plasma Wave Science (RPWS) instrument “detected the hits of hundreds of ring particles per second” vaporizing into electrically-excited gas when it was just outside Saturn’s main rings, but within the gap, it detected very few.
Thankfully, scientists were able to convert these detections into audio files so we can all enjoy Cassini’s hot beats. They sound like white noise and/or impending doom:
“It was a bit disorienting — we weren’t hearing what we expected to hear,” William Kurth, RPWS team lead at the University of Iowa, said in a statement. “I’ve listened to our data from the first dive several times and I can probably count on my hands the number of dust particle impacts I hear.”
After today’s dive, Cassini will have just 20 more orbits until it plunges itself into Saturn’s atmosphere. Maybe by the end of its Grand Finale, we’ll have enough material for an album — fingers crossed it’s named “Space Jams.”