Scientists are puzzled by an unusual occurrence of sounds picked up in the upper atmosphere of Earth
By: April Carson
Researchers discovered mysterious sounds in the upper echelons of Earth's atmosphere that have yet to be classified. The sounds have been detected by a variety of instruments, including the European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association (EISCAT) radar system and other specialized instruments.
Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories launched a solar-powered balloon mission carrying a microphone that ascended to a region of Earth's atmosphere - called the stratosphere - about 31 miles (50 km) above the surface. Owing to its relative calmness and freedom from commercial air traffic and stormy weather, this atmospheric layer provides an excellent opportunity to eavesdrop on the earth's natural and human-made sounds.
During the investigation, the microphone picked up some unusual sounds that recurred on flights, with a frequency of 20Hz or lower, which is below the threshold of human hearing. Despite being recorded in the infrasound, these sounds remain unidentified. “There are enigmatic infrasound signals that occur sporadically on certain flights, but their origin remains a complete mystery," said Daniel Bowman, a representative of Sandia National Laboratories.
Bowman and his team obtained acoustic data from the stratosphere using microbarometers originally designed to monitor volcanoes. These microbarometers have the capacity to detect low-frequency sounds, including mysterious repeating infrasound signals, along with the anticipated natural and man-made sounds.
The researchers will continue to analyze their data for further clues about the origin of these mysterious sounds. “It’s possible that the source is something from space, or some kind of acoustic-gravity wave, but we just don't know yet," said Bowman. "Until these signals are better understood, they remain an intriguing puzzle."
Bowman and his colleagues sent sensors into the sky with balloons they constructed themselves. These balloons, which had diameters of 20-23 feet (6-7 meters), were made from affordable, commonplace materials. Despite their simplicity, they could reach altitudes of up to 70,000 feet (13.3 miles), powered only by the sun.
The research is part of a larger initiative to explore the upper atmosphere and its acoustic characteristics, with the intention of understanding how sound waves propagate at that altitude. The team's results serve as an initial step in furthering our understanding of Earth's atmospheric sounds and could eventually help us determine the origins of these mysterious signals.
Bowman described, "Our balloons essentially consist of oversized plastic bags with charcoal powder lining. We craft them using painter's plastic from the hardware store, shipping tape, and charcoal powder obtained from pyrotechnic supply stores. As sunlight shines upon the darkened balloons, the air within heats up and creates upward lift."
The team's research demonstrates that it is possible to explore the upper atmosphere and uncover its secrets, even with limited resources. Their work serves as a testament to the potential of simple technologies in unlocking complex mysteries like these unidentified infrasound signals from our mysterious stratosphere.
Bowman clarified that the balloons could ascend from the planet's surface to the stratosphere, powered solely by passive solar energy. Subsequently, the team tracked the balloons, leveraging GPS technology. Navigating such a flight path was crucial as the balloons sometimes covered vast distances, occasionally landing in remote areas of the planet.
The team's mission into the unknown was a success, as they uncovered various atmospheric phenomena that had yet to be documented. While the mysterious signals remain unidentified, Bowman and his group are hopeful that their observations can provide some clues in unraveling this mystery.
Scientific balloons can easily be mistaken for other objects, resulting in unintentional alarm, as we've seen from recent events. Let's make sure we know what we're looking at before we panic. While mysterious sounds remain a mystery, the team is confident that their observations from the stratosphere could prove to be invaluable in uncovering their source.
As Bowman concluded, “I believe there are many more discoveries waiting for us in the sky." With this launch of an acoustic balloon mission into the stratosphere, we have taken a crucial step in advancing our knowledge of the upper atmosphere and its acoustic phenomena.
Cutting-edge vehicles are undergoing testing to team up with a Venus orbiter, unlocking new insights into the planet's seismic and volcanic activity. Advanced robotic balloons promise to soar through Venus's upper atmosphere, floating amidst its thick clouds of sulfuric acid, and delving into the mysteries of "Earth's evil twin." Their high-altitude reconnaissance will help us better understand this fiery planet and explore its hellishly hot and high-pressure surface.
Researchers are pushing the boundaries of our knowledge to uncover mysteries that have yet to be solved, like the unidentified sounds from Earth's stratosphere. By taking advantage of simple technologies and creative problem-solving, these researchers hope to unlock complex secrets about our world.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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