The sounds of the aurora.
January 31, 2003 7:24 AM   Subscribe

Ever wondered what the Aurora Borealis sounds like? The northern (or southern) lights generate VLF radio waves as well as light. These sounds have been captured here as hundreds of free mp3 downloads, and they make amazing ambient soundtracks. Random clicks, whirrs, pops and whistles, direct from outer space. The site also features other "weather sounds" generated by lightning storms and such, and explains how you can get your hands on a VLF receiver to hear the sounds yourself.
posted by Jimbob (12 comments total)
Great post, thanks.
posted by the fire you left me at 7:34 AM on January 31, 2003

Great stuff! Along the same lines, there's solar sounds recorded by the SOHO satellite, the University of Florida Planetary Radio Group(with tons of info on extraterrestrial radio listening), listening to the sounds of meteorites(Spaceweather, in general is a great site for this sort of thing), and more VLF stuff from NASA here. VLF radio even inspired at least one ambient/electronic music album.
posted by 40 Watt at 7:45 AM on January 31, 2003

I can't download any of the mp3s, I get a 404 for all the links. (Whistler sounds, that track 1 from CD II, etc)
posted by riffola at 7:57 AM on January 31, 2003

Great links! When I was in Alaska, I had heard from people that sometimes the northern lights crackled, but I never got to hear them, I just saw them a couple of times.
posted by witchstone at 8:11 AM on January 31, 2003

would love to hear it but none of the mp3 links work
posted by lotsofno at 8:28 AM on January 31, 2003

NPR had a piece on Lost and Found Sound called Listening to the Northern Lights about Steve McGreevy's recordings of the Aurora.
posted by rorschach at 9:12 AM on January 31, 2003

Slightly serendipitous I suppose, but the bloke who does the wall projection stuff a bit like the folks mentioned a couple of articles up - and who is a friend of mine - has also released a CD of 'experiemental' recordings he made with a home made VLF antenna (made so I recall by wrapping hundreds of yards of wires around a hula hoop). Anyway he works as 'Disinfomation' and the CD/remix CDs are on Ash International. More info here.
posted by carter at 9:24 AM on January 31, 2003

Oh, amazing! What an idea! Of course, colors are magnetic energy. I just listened to the Auroral Chorus CD and it's very curious and smooth. I wonder if in a desert site where an auroral borealis takes place we could listen to those sounds naturally, in a very subtle way, almost like meditating. It would be something.
posted by nandop at 9:35 AM on January 31, 2003

In addition to the electromagnetic noise they make, the norhtern lights can also be heard and recorded with a suitably sensitive recorder. Here's a small article on the sounds. There's a study going on in Finland which consists of super-sensitive recording devices set up in the wilderness, these recordings then have to be manipulated in order to remove all other sounds, like a deer peeing a mile away or the distant sound of a jet. The electro-magnetical disturbances make recording even further difficult, since equipment has to be shielded from them
posted by lazy-ville at 10:24 AM on January 31, 2003

When I was a kid, living in Idaho, I actually heard aurora--there was a huge storm during an International Geophysical Year, which was at the sunspot cycle peak. The aurora were these huge bright rippling sheets of pink and yellow that stretched from the north to well past the zenith. You could hear a sound like distant thunder.
posted by y2karl at 10:38 AM on January 31, 2003 [1 favorite]

In collaboration with University of Iowa astrophysicist Donald Gurnett and the dean of minimalist composers, Terry Riley, Kronos (Quartet) returns for the world premiere of Sun Rings that combines the earthbound sounds of a string quartet with the closest thing to a literal version of “music of the spheres.” Press here to hear more...
posted by Zoyd Wheeler at 12:06 PM on January 31, 2003

Riffola and lots - the mp3s I downloaded were kind of deep within the site - maybe the "front page" mp3 links are down, but if you search deeper you should find some good stuff.
posted by Jimbob at 4:01 PM on January 31, 2003

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