A remarkable discovery has recently been made in the calm stratosphere of our planet. Scientists from Sandia National Laboratories detected unidentified sounds through an innovative solar-powered balloon mission, adding a new layer of mystery to our atmospheric understanding.
Researchers have recorded mysterious infrasound signals in Earth’s stratosphere using a solar-powered balloon carrying a sensitive microphone. These unidentified, repeating sounds occur several times per hour at frequencies below the range of human hearing. The discovery could open new realms in atmospheric research.
Listening to the Whispers of the Stratosphere
High above Earth’s surface, beyond the reach of storms and commercial air traffic, an unexpected symphony plays out in the stratosphere. Scientists recently tapped into this concert, only to encounter unfamiliar tunes.
The Solar-Powered Symphony Seeker
Using a solar-powered balloon equipped with a sensitive microphone, the research team embarked on a listening journey. The balloon ascended to the serene stratosphere, approximately 31 miles (50 km) above the planet, to eavesdrop on Earth’s natural and human-made sounds.
Catching the Enigmatic Signals
Amid the familiar noises, the microphone also picked up strange sounds repeating a few times per hour, with their origin remaining a mystery. These sounds were recorded in the infrasound range, well below the range of human hearing.
Creating the Floating Listener: Balloon Construction
The balloon, with a diameter of 20 to 23 feet (6 to 7 meters), was ingeniously built from common, inexpensive materials. Propelled by the heat of the sun on its dark, charcoal-dusted surface, it ascended to around 70,000 feet (13.3 miles) over Earth.
From Earth to Venus
Beyond the quest to identify these mysterious sounds, solar-powered balloons could play a crucial role in space exploration. They’re being tested for potential use in observing seismic and volcanic activity on Venus, our planet’s “evil twin.”
The detection of these unidentified sounds has opened a new frontier in atmospheric research. Future studies could aim to decode these sounds, while also exploring the broader applications of solar-powered balloon technology, such as atmospheric data collection and space exploration.