Eerie music from the dark side of the moon
February 22, 2016 11:43 PM   Subscribe

"Astronauts onboard Apollo 10 say they heard mysterious "music" on the dark side of the moon. They didn't know if they were hearing things and were left wondering if music really was coming from behind the moon. The answer is - sort of - but not really. They could hear an "outer space-type" droning musical sound when they went around the back of the moon at the end of the 1960s and say they were worried nobody would believe them". CNN news piece with short clip of the sound.
posted by marienbad (48 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Space wind! No wind in space.
posted by downtohisturtles at 11:50 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


No wind in space. And there is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact, it's all dark.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:07 AM on February 23, 2016 [10 favorites]


Surely somewhere on the internet there's a way to hear just the music without also hearing CNN saying idiotic things about it?

It's too late for me; I'm asking for the sake of those who come after me.
posted by aubilenon at 12:15 AM on February 23, 2016 [51 favorites]


What - is this the recording publically available since 1973 of a sound caused by two long wave radio sets interfering?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:20 AM on February 23, 2016 [13 favorites]


It's too late for me; I'm asking for the sake of those who come after me.

The linked BBC story has an embedded video -- part 2 of 2 -- which is also not the part that has the sound. You can find part 1 here.

It isn't CNN saying stupid shit, but it is the stereotypical, modern, "We have 15 seconds of material to fill the next 10 minutes of television", fake interviews and narration thing. I love the first YT comment:

Dear fellow Americans, please stop making documentaries with a horror movie like vibe. It ruins the credibility of the material. Sincerely, the world that wishes we weren't so stupid.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:26 AM on February 23, 2016 [8 favorites]


That they heard these sounds over the radio seems like a pretty significant fact for the BBC to gloss over and only mention indirectly, although it's mentioned in the science channel video. From the coverage and reaction elsewhere, I think a lot of people are reading this as if the spacecraft was filled with sound of an unknown origin or from outside the spacecraft or something like that.

As much as I'd love to be excited about this it seems to have a pretty straightforward explanation. The solar system is full of radiation of all kinds to the point where it's an everyday safety concern for space travel. Given this and the need for a sensitive radio to communicate with earth, it's not hard to imagine background noise taking over in the absence of other signals.
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:40 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


GallonofAlan has the physics basically right.
The music is basically resultant of a makeshift theremin.
However the space weather produces a chaotic timbre.
We may never know what exactly was the space weather on that date in 1968; but we know now that there is an abundance of dust and small particles in space. Some of that material becomes charged, and then gives off a wake of electromagnetic waves.
posted by MisplaceDisgrace at 12:58 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


The Verge's piece is a bit better lead in, and links to Science Channel's video (link goes to part 2 which is actually interesting but doesn't have the noise. Part 1 is breathy advertisement-y but has the noise in question near the end).

The official explanation is "radio interference", but the astronauts on Apollo 10, who spent 8 days in space, should be very familiar with what radio interference sounds like on their spacecraft. The video also mention Cassini picked up similar transmissions from Saturn, for which there is an accepted scientific explanation.

No one's made any "Pink Floyd already released this in 1973" jokes yet?
posted by fragmede at 1:03 AM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


No one's made any "Pink Floyd already released this in 1973" jokes yet?

Does comment #2 qualify?
posted by Bruce H. at 1:25 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have heard many Muslim students in the last decade tell me that the astronauts heard Arabic music on the moon, yet more proof of the truth/power of Allah, etc! I guess this is the initial source of that bad meme.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:37 AM on February 23, 2016


Good old archive.org has the goods. And voice transcriptions are here.
posted by analoghotdog at 1:43 AM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


The music is basically resultant of a makeshift theremin.

Since we have established a close link between cats and theremins, moon cats is the only clear answer. Lovecraft was right!!
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:44 AM on February 23, 2016 [17 favorites]


It sounds to me like shortwave noise filtered through old tape.

The other likely explanation is that radio noise from the universe resonated with various components in Apollo, and ultimately induced enough current on the radio antenna to generate a signal. On the dark side of the moon, earth-based signals fine tuned for human listeners are absent. Background noise and its impact on Apollo's communication systems would be prominent on the audio signal.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:54 AM on February 23, 2016


....when they found the capsule, "Stairway To Heaven" was still playing on the radio, even though the battery must have been dead for years
posted by thelonius at 2:02 AM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


The sounds are produced by two superheterodyne radio receivers mutually interfering. (they pickup each others local oscillators and feedback)

Same principle as a theremin and also related to how counterespionage agencies hunted listening devices / spies who were using clandestine radios
posted by Outside Context Problem at 2:17 AM on February 23, 2016 [13 favorites]


This whole story is just massive clickbait nonsense where there's a clear explanation and every article about it eventually has to admit that in the final paragraph after making you look at their page
posted by memebake at 3:13 AM on February 23, 2016 [16 favorites]


While we're talking about the moon, this to-scale picture showing how far the moon is from the Earth always makes me realize just how weird it must have been for the astronauts to be all the way over there.
posted by memebake at 3:16 AM on February 23, 2016 [8 favorites]


Truth is, someone's grandma told them they weren't allowed to practice their guitar in the basement any longer. The sound only reached planet earth and was recorded and released in 1972.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:52 AM on February 23, 2016


You're all wrong.

Space whales.
posted by duffell at 4:07 AM on February 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


BBC article: "This has all come out ahead of the next series of Nasa's Unexplained Files on the Science Channel."

"This has all come out ahead of..." = "We're going to pretend this is news that somehow just happened, but this is actually a shitty unmysterious 'mystery' hype piece we slapped together from a press release we just received and dumped directly to the air to promote..." = "Be sure to watch..."

"...the next series of Nasa's Unexplained Files on the Science Channel." = "the upcoming season of another 'science'-for-nonscientists television show on the 'science'-for-nonscientists television channel."
posted by pracowity at 4:22 AM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


There's a bit in Mass Effect where, on various planets, you can hear the song of the rachni (think of a version of the bugs from Starship Troopers); one location is on Luna.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:24 AM on February 23, 2016


Well, if you want radio space whales...

If it was different radio systems interfering with each other, then that should be demonstrable. NASA will know what all the various frequencies generated inside the electronics are, and thus what the potential mixing products might be. It's probably this - around the far side of the Moon, the radio receivers won't have any signals to lock on to and thus will tend to drift, and at the same time they'll automatically turn their gains up to maximum, so they'll be in just the right condition to generate drifting weak heterodynes. It can be quite hard to track down this sort of thing, especially after the event, but seeing as we are very good at remote diagnosis of faulty radios (identifying exact failure points down to single components on Voyager, for example),I'd expect it to be tractable.

But it might be something else. Natural radio is generated when you move charged particles through magnetic fields, conditions which are common enough in outer space near a star, and we don't know now (let alone back then) exactly what goes on in space weather's plasma physics. Again, the spacecraft radios will be at their most receptive and open when shielded from Earth signals.

And there are still genuine space radio mysteries. One of my favourites are LDEs, Long Delay Echoes, which have been known for nearly a hundred years and remain to be pinned down. They may have an extraterrestrial explanation.
posted by Devonian at 5:13 AM on February 23, 2016 [8 favorites]


I like the idea of a BBC exposé on NASA's secret program keeping tabs on the Science Channel. It's like the X-Files, only with more complaining about lack of nuance.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:25 AM on February 23, 2016


Oh no you don't! I know what you want!

YOU coveteth my ice cream bar!
posted by petebest at 5:57 AM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Gas Music from Jupiter, indeed.
posted by tommasz at 6:01 AM on February 23, 2016


ALL THESE WORLDS
ARE YOURS EXCEPT
LUNA
ATTEMPT NO
LANDING THERE
AH SHIT YOU ALREADY DID

NEVERMIND
posted by fungible at 6:03 AM on February 23, 2016 [21 favorites]


There may be a plausible explanation but I'm glad I'm not the only one who likes weird moon stuff.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:22 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


when they found the capsule, "Stairway To Heaven" was still playing on the radio,

... This is a Drive-by Truckers reference right? (even if it's not I'm going to pretend it is)
posted by PMdixon at 6:26 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh there is so much that is hateful and ignorant in the CNN piece, from the Male News Reader glossing over the actual explanation to make the inane "...or is it?" joke, to the Woman News Reader mis-pronouncing NASA as "nassau."
posted by aught at 6:36 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Regardless of whether this was two radios interfering or some outside source, there is definitely cool outer space radio stuff going on at the same frequencies as human hearing, like whistler waves.
posted by Zalzidrax at 6:36 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


... This ['Stairway To Heaven' was STILL PLAYING on the radio, man!] is a Drive-by Truckers reference right? (even if it's not I'm going to pretend it is)

It's from an old teenage urban legend. The Truckers may have used it, I don't know.
posted by thelonius at 6:42 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


It is the sound of disappointment. They were destined to circle the moon but never land. That would be the next mission.
posted by Splunge at 6:56 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's like no one's heard of the music of the spheres.
posted by Apocryphon at 7:20 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I refuse to click because it will ruin my dream of the sound slowing fading into the B-52's Rock Lobster
posted by poffin boffin at 7:37 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


Just sounds like a flanger. Not interesting in the slightest.
posted by cellphone at 7:46 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


You're all wrong.
Space whales.


Wait, wait, I've got it:

Houston! There be whales here!
posted by duffell at 7:47 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


But there ain't no whales
So we tell tall tales
And sing our whalin' tune.
posted by kyrademon at 7:59 AM on February 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


Another aspect of radios interfering with each other - or not - was the wily Brits disguising the use of a new anti-submarine airborne radar by leading the Germans to believe the sudden increase in U-boat losses was due to signals leaking from their (very successful) Metox radar warning receiver. This meant both that some U-boat crews refused to use Metox, and that the development of a successor to pick up the new British radar was delayed.

Somewhat later, the CIA used radio signals from the Moon to spy on the Soviets...

Tune in next week for more thrilling tales of the wild and the weird in wireless!
posted by Devonian at 8:05 AM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Devonian, that would all make a great FPP
posted by slipthought at 8:29 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


I refuse to click because it will ruin my dream of the sound slowing fading into the B-52's Rock Lobster

Welllll...
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:43 AM on February 23, 2016


WAKE UP SHEEPLE
GOOGLE PINK FLOYD
posted by The White Hat at 9:11 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


I hope this is just the cynical phase of geezerhood kicking in. This is so goofy it ought to be on the Science Channel. Maybe the History Channel. They could put it between Ghost Hunters' Mob Wives and The Devils Triangle Vortex of Alien Autopsies.
posted by mule98J at 9:12 AM on February 23, 2016


After processing, the music turned out to be "Low Rider."
posted by zippy at 9:13 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


Terrestrial Heterodyning.

From the archive.org link (43:40 minutes in to 10-030702_5-OF-6):

"You want some more brownies?"
"no"
"That music even sounds outer-spacey, doesn't it?"

Experimental electronic music was a thing back in the 1950s and '60s. Pauline Oliveros and The San Francisco Tape Music Center were producing music at the time that is not dissimilar to the radio noise the Apollo 10 astronauts are commenting on.

Experimental electronic music was extremely niche back then, but it was also extremely nerdy. It isn't hard to imagine a scenario where astronauts and NASA engineers are up partying late at night, smoking joints, eating cannabis brownies and listening to Space Music (experimental electronic music of the day). Later, in orbit around the moon, the now-sober astronauts are enjoying some brownies and hear some sounds that are remarkably similar that one tape that Lawrence always put on after the joint had completed its first orbit.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:54 AM on February 23, 2016


Non-mystery aside, for anyone who enjoys this as music, I recommend the work of Tod Dockstader, especially the Aerial series, which is a three-volume opus made from found-and-reworked shortwave radio noise. Not every track can stand on its own, IMO, but the ones that do are sublime.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:20 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am way more interested in the casual swearing (read the transcript), swinging hepcat sixties astronauts calling each other babe and the anxiety they feel about their bosses thinking they're crazy and grounding them than any amount of weird alien WFMU broadcast bleed over.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:23 AM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've always enjoyed the musicality of radio signals, recording my own and taking note when others make use of them (I knew about Dockstader, a bit, but didn't have Aerial, so thanks for that). One day, I'll do a curatorial FPP, both of natural or accidental radio phenomena that have that special something, and of musicians' use of radio signals. There's a lot out there.

I also have a yen to do something similar to Vladimir Ussachevsky's Wireless Fantasy, which is, I believe, him recreating the experience of listening to a concert on shortwave. Since I have the obsession, I can clearly remember (at least, think I clearly remember) many of my own early experiences hearing weird things on the wireless, and trying to communicate those feelings in audio seems like something I should do.
posted by Devonian at 1:01 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


You're all wrong.

Space whales.


[cetacean needed]
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:32 PM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


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