Spacecraft tunes in to the music of Jupiter
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Image of Jupiter obtained December 13 by the Cassini spacecraft
(CNN) -- NASA's Cassini space probe is listening to an eerie melody
as it approaches the giant planet Jupiter. ( Listen )
ship is picking up low-radio frequency patterns that, when converted to audible waves, suggest the faint strains of some alien folk tune.
But these signals aren't signs of extraterrestrial life. The waves happen as the solar wind, a thin gas of charged
particles that streams from the sun, crashes into the powerful
magnetic field enveloping Jupiter.
The energy of the resulting bow shock likely creates the
electronic wave oscillations, according to NASA scientists.
Jupiter's boisterous bow shock resembles the sonic boom from
supersonic jet airplanes as they break the sound barrier above
Cassini picked up the space "sounds" at a distance of 23 million
km (14 million miles) from Jupiter on December 8.
Artist's concept of the Cassini spacecraft
The probe will
fly to within 10 million km (6.2 million miles) of the gas giant
in late December, conducting joint planetary studies along the
way with another satellite in the neighborhood, Galileo. The latter
NASA probe has orbited the Jupiter system for five years.
Cassini will receive a gravity boost from Jupiter on a journey to
the Saturn system, which it is scheduled to reach in 2004.
Cassini and Galileo are managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
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NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
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