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Why and how can you hear explosions in space in Star Wars?

In they were specific in all of the outer space scenes there was no sound which some people complained about.

Whereas , , and many others show sound in deep space.

How is this?

Did Joss Whedon get it right? Is there really no audible sounds in deep spce? Or was it done just to prove a point?


5 Answers 5


The sensible answer to your question is that there is no sound in space for the reasons that RedArrogantKnight and bitmask have given. Sound is a pressure wave. If you look at your loudspeakers playing Black Sabbath at their finest you can see the cones moving forward and backward. The speaker cones generate pressure waves and it's these waves reaching your ear that we perceive as sound. So no air, no sound.

But given that we are SciFi fans and allowed to stretch things a little, let me argue that there is sound in space and that in fact we owe our existance to it.

As bitmask says, there is gas in space. It's just very thin. However in nebulae the gas is a lot thicker than in intergalactic space, and you can generate pressure waves in this gas. In particular supernovae generate pressure waves, and it is believed these pressure waves can increase the density of the gas enough to make it collapse and start forming stars.

Now no-one is going to seriously claim that the pressure waves in interstellar gas caused by supernovae is "sound". You'd need an awfully large ear and a lot of patience to hear it. nevertheless, it is a pressure wave, and sound is a pressure wave, so I hereby claim there is sound in space and the formation of our sun may well have been caused by it!

  • 1
    +1 for "fitting?" Black Sabbath in there. >D
    – Secko
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 18:12
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    With a large enough ear, even the explosion of the Death Star would make a satisfying "BOOM". Certainly Luke and Han wouldn't be able to hear it, but who's to say the omnipresent camera can't detect it? Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 18:14
  • Y'know, I wonder if the particles that make up the solar wind would act similarly...
    – Izkata
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 19:20

While most people would like to make you believe that space is a vacuum, in fact it is not. It is just very, very, very, very, ..., very thin! Low density (thin gas) means that the space between atoms (if you think of an atom (quite simplified) as a ball, which suffices for this case) is very large. If atoms have little chance to bump into other atoms (because there are just so very little atoms to bump into), sound has a very small chance to propagate. Thus you can hear no sound, for all practical considerations (purely theoretically there could be an occasional bit of sound, but nothing we could pick up with our instruments, I guess -- let alone the human ear).

Therefore, space is not only dark to the eyes, it's also dark to the ears. Complete silence.

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    There are no compression--rarification waves at all at frequencies higher than 1/(mean time between collisions), which is to say at any frequency that humans can hear. There are such waves on huge spacial and time scales, but to call them "sounds" stretches the word beyond reason. Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 17:40
  • @dmckee: My point exactly. There is no sound.
    – bitmask
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 18:05
  • Thanks for addressing this. I briefly pondered the potential for rare interstellar atoms to collide and wondered how that could be bridged with the definition of sound. @dmckee, thanks for mentioning the fact that sound involves repeating pressure waves at fairly high frequencies, which theoretically allows us to set a clear definition of "sound" and even compute a probability for an episode of sound in a given region of space (inconceivably low).
    – octern
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 19:12


Basically, Firefly is much more accurate than most popular sci-fi. Sound does not travel without a medium, such as air.

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    Again, please differentiate between "most sc-fi" and "most popular sci-fi". It's only the movies and TV shows that get this stuff wrong, but there is a lot more written that done for mass media. ::sheesh:: Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 17:27
  • Alright, that's fair. Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 17:34
  • So, where does the gravity on the ship come from? :) Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 20:40

The classic thing here is described in The Making of Star Trek by Stephen Whitfield. When putting together the opening credits of Star Trek TOS they initially had no noise, because that would be accurate. But everybody thought it felt wrong. So they added the swoosh as the ship flies by. Because in television it's more important that something feels right than is right. That's how television almost always works.

  • We can always say that the sound effects in space scenes aren't "really" happening in the "real' events that the movies and tv shows are based on, but are added by the creators of the movies and tv shows for dramatic effect. Which is true, except that the movies and tv shows aren't actually based on real future events. Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 23:57

Before I say this, all the other people that answered are right, but:

There is sound in space. It exists as electromagnetic vibration, and has been recorded by NASA.

The only reason, that I can give for SciFi movies and shows having sound in deep space is that the event wouldn't be interesting to a lot of the audience otherwise.

Wiki quote:

...it should be noted that if there was no sound, prolonged space battles can become less interesting to the audience and climaxes such as the Death Star exploding would have a much smaller impact.

This has been explained in some Star Wars media as the result of a sensor system that creates three-dimensional sound inside the cockpit or bridge matching the external movement of other vessels, as a form of multimodal interface.

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    "There is sound in space. It exists as electromagnetic vibration" - Erm, we call that light (or radio/micro/gamma-waves, depending on the frequency). Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 20:43
  • @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft So, what is wrong with what I said. And you probably meant to say gamma-ray, instead of gamma-waves, which are something else entirely.
    – Secko
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 22:12
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    No, what's wrong is that sound and electromagnetic phenomena are different things. Really. Yes, NASA can convert the electromagnetic spectrum to a audio one for the purposes of a demo, but that is emphatically not sound in space. Commented Mar 24, 2012 at 0:08
  • @dmckee Well, I said it exists in different form.
    – Secko
    Commented Mar 24, 2012 at 1:22

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