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Can you hear a space ship in space or a super nova?
Question Date: 2012-04-17
Answer 1:

Interesting question - that depends what you mean by "hear." As you may know, what we call "sound" are just vibrations around us; these vibrations travel through the air to our ears, making our eardrum vibrate, and causing us to hear a sound. Now, what if there were no air around? Well, without the air to vibrate, there's no way for vibrations to travel from whatever's making them to our ears, so we wouldn't be able to hear anything! So, if you were sitting in space without a helmet on (don't try this!), you wouldn't be able to hear anything. In order to communicate, astronauts need to use radios mounted within their helmets.

However, there's still something like sound waves in space. For example, when a star dies, it explodes (like in a super nova, as you mention) or emits bursts of gas. Since interstellar space ("interstellar" means the space inside a galaxy) contains some small amount of gas, it turns out that the explosions from a dying star can cause ripples and shock waves in the gas. These ripples are very similar to our familiar sound waves in air, except they're much, much bigger (so they're not something we can "hear," though we can detect them with telescopes).

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