Up above the earth’s surface, above the altitude at which planes fly but just short of the stratosphere (100 km high), lies an area filled with mystery. This area is called Near space.

Here, scientists listen to strange sounds: crackles, whines and hisses, and try to determine their source. What are these sounds? Well, oddly enough, these ‘alien sounds’ are similar to something you might hear in sci-fi movies.

First Tests

Science first heard these mysterious sounds in 1960. It was by chance that the sounds were revealed due to the study of nuclear explosions. After that isolated incident, no other studies were conducted for 50 years. Now it’s time to delve into this phenomenon.

What are these sounds?

They are called atmospheric infrasounds which drop below 20 Hertz cannot be heard by the human ear. When sped up, however, the infrasound can be heard.

Curious Science

In the near future, NASA plans to send microphones into the near space region to understand the origin of infrasound.

David Bowman, the builder of the listening equipment, told Live Science:“These things sound like something from the X-Files.

Last year, the equipment that Bowman designed was attached to NASA’s HASP (High Altitude Student Platform). Bowman led a project, using the same equipment, which allowed university students to experiment and launch helium balloons into near space.

This flight drifted over New Mexico and Arizona and reached a height of 37.5 km (just over 20 miles). Lasting 9 hours, this was the highest reach in history, for the search of infrasound in Near space. The latest recordings were so interesting that NASA Plans on conducting more experiments in the same area on the HASP flight.

Bowman is a graduate of the University of North Carolina. His hopes are that people will be more interested in listening to these infrasounds and understanding what they mean. Bowman believes if instruments are placed in the Near space region, scientists will find things they never knew existed.


There has been a talk of aliens as being the source of these sounds. Unfortunately, this seems untrue. Infrasound can be made by atmospheric disturbances such as turbulence, volcanos and thunderstorms. Even so, scientists believe we can gain much by studying these sounds. They may be used, in some cases, to monitor weather conditions.

X-Files, maybe not, but scientists hope that learning more about the sounds of things closer to home: crashing of ocean waves, earthquake or other signals, can provide needed information. If you haven’t listened to the sounds yet, take the time to experience something new about mysterious realms of the atmosphere. You may be surprised by what you hear.

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