Nature

Published on July 10th, 2012 | by James Ayre

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Sounds Of The Aurora Borealis Confirmed

July 10th, 2012 by

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Auroral sounds have, for the first time, been confirmed to exist. The sounds accompanying the Northern Lights have long been described in folktales and by wilderness wanderers, but evidence until now has been scarce.

Researchers from Aalto University in Finland have also located where the sounds associated with the lights are created, they are formed about 70 meters above the ground level in the measured case.

“Researchers located the sound sources by installing three separate microphones in an observation site where the auroral sounds were recorded. They then compared sounds captured by the microphones and determined the location of the sound source. The aurora borealis was seen at the observation site. The simultaneous measurements of the geomagnetic disturbances, made by the Finnish Meteorological Institute, showed a typical pattern of the northern lights episodes.”

“Our research proved that, during the occurrence of the northern lights, people can hear natural auroral sounds related to what they see. In the past, researchers thought that the aurora borealis was too far away for people to hear the sounds it made. This is true. However, our research proves that the source of the sounds that are associated with the aurora borealis we see is likely caused by the same energetic particles from the sun that create the northern lights far away in the sky. These particles or the geomagnetic disturbance produced by them seem to create sound much closer to the ground,” said Professor Unto K. Laine from Aalto University.

How the auroral sounds are created remains something of a mystery though. And the sounds do not seem to occur regularly whenever the northern lights are seen.

“The recorded, unamplified sounds can be similar to crackles or muffled bangs which last for only a short period of time. Other people who have heard the auroral sounds have described them as distant noise and sputter. Because of these different descriptions, researchers suspect that there are several mechanisms behind the formation of these auroral sounds. These sounds are so soft that one has to listen very carefully to hear them and to distinguish them from the ambient noise.”

You can hear the sounds here:

Source and Image: Aalto University

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



  • henkkaj

    I have actually witnessed the sound of Aurora Borealis. This was winter of 2002 and in rural Southern Finland where AB is not a common occurance. I went outside for a smoke at around midnight and heard distant sounds of heavy cannon fire. It scared the bejeezus out of me and I wondered to myself that how can war have started without any conflict with the Russkies in the news and that I’m far too young to die.

    It was then that I realized that the sky was full of particularily big Aurora Borealis which was causing the rumbling sound of the distant cannon fire.
    I have heard people claim the AB to sometimes make sounds but this was the first and so far the last time I have heard Aurora Borealis make any sounds whatsoever.

  • henkkaj

    I have actually witnessed the sound of Aurora Borealis. This was winter of 2002 and in rural Southern Finland where AB is not a common occurance. I went outside for a smoke at around midnight and heard distant sounds of heavy cannon fire. It scared the bejeezus out of me and I wondered to myself that how can war have started without any conflict with the Russkies in the news and that I’m far too young to die.

    It was then that I realized that the sky was full of particularily big Aurora Borealis which was causing the rumbling sound of the distant cannon fire.
    I have heard people claim the AB to sometimes make sounds but this was the first and so far the last time I have heard Aurora Borealis make any sounds whatsoever.

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