Five years ago, a teacher said there's sound in space, called "the music of the space."

Is this true or false?

I don't think it's true because there's nothing in the void.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There was a claim, years ago, that "sound waves" were detected near a black hole (not really sound, it's subsonic waves in interstellar material): science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2003/… $\endgroup$ – Andy Jan 4 '16 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ What is commonly referred to "sounds of space" (you can find recordings of what the Sun "sounds like") is in fact electromagnetic waves (definitely not sound), remapped into audible spectrum - essentially receiving various radio frequencies emitted by various sources in space and playing them as if they were normal radio transmissions. Of course our radio is first encoding sound as electric signal, then transmitting it as electromagnetic, then reversing the process. In case of space there is no original "audio", just direct electromagnetic sources. $\endgroup$ – SF. Jan 5 '16 at 0:34
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Andy, Other than being at a ridiculously low frequency, those are sound waves. It's exactly the same phenomenon that we call "sound". $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Aug 8 '16 at 17:10

Of course there is no sound in the vacuum of space, as there isn't a sufficient medium to propagate sound waves. Your teacher was referring to a medieval concept known as the music of the spheres.

Musica universalis (lit. universal music, or music of the spheres) or Harmony of the Spheres is an ancient philosophical concept that regards proportions in the movements of celestial bodies—the Sun, Moon, and planets—as a form of musica (the Medieval Latin term for music). This "music" is not usually thought to be literally audible, but a harmonic, mathematical or religious concept. The idea continued to appeal to thinkers about music until the end of the Renaissance, influencing scholars of many kinds, including humanists.

This is philosophy, not physics.

| improve this answer | |
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Space is not a complete vacuum. It's not immediately 100% obvious that there couldn't be some sound-like wave propagation through the interplanetary or interstellar medium. But I don't think there's enough matter to sustain sound. $\endgroup$ – Keith Thompson Jan 4 '16 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed. Probably insufficient to sustain any measurable sound waves. $\endgroup$ – Jerard Puckett Jan 4 '16 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ Sound is just vibration, and vibration is the transfer of energy through shock waves. Shock waves are simply the propagation of kinetic energy through a medium. So if you have rarified gas then you have a potential for collisions, and you could make a loose statement that sound can propagate through something like interstellar dust. However, the signal-to-noise ratio would be so abysmal that you might as well just say that there is no sound propagation in space -- and certainly not in the way we perceive it! $\endgroup$ – Brian Lynch Jan 5 '16 at 0:19
  • $\begingroup$ This is wrong. There are sound waves in space, called ion acoustic waves. Although you could not "stick your ear out to hear them," that does not render them something other than acoustic waves. That shock waves exist in almost every region of space (e.g., en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…) also negates the statement that sound cannot exist in outer space as shock waves are nonlinearly steepened sound waves... $\endgroup$ – honeste_vivere Jun 30 '17 at 18:10
  • $\begingroup$ I do realize that the teacher's comment to which the OP originally referred was almost certainly referring to the practice of converting an electromagnetic signal into audio, called sonification. However, the above answer is wrong (or at the very least, inaccurately stated). $\endgroup$ – honeste_vivere Jun 30 '17 at 18:11

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.