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Did you know that the sound a rocket makes when it is launched is one of the loudest noises on Earth ? The roaring of the engine is so loud that the nearest place to watch the take-off is 5 km from the launch pad (the area where rockets take off), in other words, a distance of nearly 40 soccer fields !
In French Guiana, crowds watch the rocket launch from the Roches beach, which is 12 km from the launch site. Even at such a distance, they still feel an intense vibration. Do you know why ? Keep reading to find out !
What is sound ?
Sound is a chain reaction of vibrations that move through space. When an object vibrates (your mouth, your vocal cords, a musical instrument, etc.), it pushes against the surrounding air and makes it expand and compress. This movement or wave is called a sound wave. As these waves move towards your ears, you hear sounds.
Now that you understand how vibrations create sound, can you imagine how powerful the sound of a rocket launching can be ?
180 decibels during take-off
Distances are measured in metres or feet; weight is measured in pounds. It makes sense to use a specific unit – the decibel – to measure sound. Your parents’ voices, for example, register at about 70 decibels; the school bell, not always music to your ears, registers at 80 decibels.
That’s nothing compared with the noise space rockets make when they take off: 180 decibels, more than twice as much !
Quiz: sounds of nature
Sure, ArianeGroup engineers are capable of designing extremely powerful-sounding rockets. Mother Nature is not bad herself. Take this short test to learn about natural sounds:
- What is the loudest animal on Earth: an elephant, a whale or a howler monkey?
The whale! The call of a whale can reach 158 decibels on average, still far behind a space rocket.
- There is, however, a sound in the natural world that rivals that of a rocket blast-off. Is it an avalanche, a hurricane or a waterfall?
It’s an avalanche! A very loud one can reach 180 decibels. Luckily though, this is very unusual.
This is all child’s play to you now. Time to challenge your friends and see what they know !