Science

ESA releases eerie sound recording of solar storm hitting Earth

ESA releases eerie sound recording of solar storm hitting Earth”

The "song", created by waves generated when Earth's magnetic field reacts to solar interference, was recorded by European Space Agency Cluster II mission probes.

Solar storms are eruptions of charged particles from the sun - and the unusual "song" was heard after scientists analysed data from the Cluster Science Archive.

Solar winds are a stream of particles which are released from the Sun, hitting Earth and anything else in its path. If these particles erupt on the Earth-facing side of the Sun, huge amounts of radiation can come hurtling our way. If these solar storms are directed towards Earth, when they hit they can disrupt our satellite systems, cause widespread blackouts and affect GPS systems.

The first region of the magnetic field they hit is called the foreshock. The team found that in the early part of the mission, from 2001 to 2005, the spacecraft flew through six such collisions, recording the waves that were generated. The interactions of the particles with the foreshock causes the release of complex magnetic waves.

When the frequencies of these magnetic waves are transformed into audible signals, they give rise to an uncanny song that is more reminiscent of the sound effects from a science fiction movie than from a natural phenomenon.

EarthSky lunar calendars make great gifts for astronomy-minded friends and family. The collision of the magnetic waves modifies the behavior of the bow shock, possibly changing the way it processes the energy of the incoming solar storm.

As shown in the image above, as a solar storm impacts (from the right), waves produced by the foreshock propogate in a complex pattern downwards (to the left) until they hit the bow shock. Image via Vlasiator team, University of Helsinki. When there are no solar particles to contend with, these magnetic waves oscillate on a single frequency and so would convert into a very different, mellower 'song'.

The ultimate goal is to understand solar weather so we can better prepare our orbital electronics and human-operated spacecraft in future against any potentially catastrophic events. The new findings were published today in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters. According to the ESA, it takes a total of about 10 minutes for waves generated at the foreshock to reach our planet.

"We always expected a change in frequency, but not the level of complexity in the wave", Turc noted. During a solar storm, the pressure of the solar wind pushing the frequency of the waves gets much higher.

According to Philippe Escoubet, the ESA's project scientist for Cluster, provides valuable information regarding the effects of a solar storm on Earth. Understanding exactly what happens when a solar storm hits could help the development of mitigation strategies.

This artist's rendition of the ESA's Cluster mission shows the four satellites in formation as they orbit the Earth, observing how the planet's magnetic field reacts to space weather.

Researchers say the changes that take place in the foreshock could affect how the solar storm reaches Earth.

Behind the bow shock, the magnetic fields of Earth start to resonate at the frequency of the waves and this contributes to the transmission of the magnetic disturbance all the way to the ground.



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