School Students Identified Sounds from a Solar Storm in the Earth’s Magnetic Shield

School Students Identified Sounds from a Solar Storm in the Earth’s Magnetic Shield

A researcher of the Queen Mary University of London made some dramatic increments to the speed of the playback of the ultra-low frequencies to make them audible.

Earth is under continuous bombardment from charged particles, who travel all the way from the Sun to the atmosphere of our planet. Most of the light seen at the poles of the Earth is caused by these particles. On the other hand, they can have some seriously negative effects, including the interference with satellites and GPS signals. Generally, the term ‘Solar Storm’ is used to represent these huge bursts of energy. Both, Solar Flares and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), contribute to this energy. The strength and composition of these storms can vary from one instance to another.

Recently, a group of students from the Eltham Hill School successfully identified a series of waves whose pitch decreased over time. They observed that the sound was initiated by a CME which created a massive disturbance to the environment of the Earth. The research was performed as part of a research project of the Queen Mary University of London. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) played a vital role in the collection of the data which used for this research. This effort from the administration of Queen Mary has received considerable amounts of appreciation and many schools in London are now interested in becoming a part of some university research.

The research revealed that these waves can be compared with the vibrations of a plucked guitar string which makes a specific sound. In the case of the Earth’s magnetic field, the change in the pitch was observed due to the recovery process of the space environment after the solar storm. This study is special because such events are not discussed on a regular basis despite their consistent occurring. The findings showed that there are many similar patterns in the data which makes them far more common than previous estimates. Isobel Currie, one of the students from the Eltham Hill School, expressed the delight of the participating students by saying,

It was truly amazing to hear how significant the event we found was and that it will be forming the basis of a proper scientific paper. We gained so much experience and developed many skills during our research that will be useful during our time at university, and it gave us a great insight into the work conducted at that level.

Read also: Solar Eruptions are Not Slinky in Shape

Despite ultra-low frequencies, the students were able to hear these sounds because a researcher made them audible by making some dramatic increments to the speed of their playback through satellite recordings. Dr. Martin Archer, the Academic Lead on the Project who is actually a Space Physicist at the Queen Mary’s School of Physics and Astronomy, praised the efforts and stressed the need of its widespread usage by saying,

The findings could transform the field, enabling more members of the public to contribute to research just by listening to data and finding things that scientists might have missed. We hope that this becomes more widespread since we are living in the age of ‘big data’.

Disturbances like these can have some detrimental impacts on our everyday lives as they can hamper vital technologies like GPS and passenger airlines. The detection of these sounds reveals that they are one of the ways of transferring the energy from solar storms to the space environment of Earth. Similarly, the research explained that some important and common types of waves were missing from the current techniques that must be incorporated into the new methods. Talking about that, Archer said,

Making data audible is uncommon and when done so is typically used only by the researchers themselves. Involving the public in undertaking research, known as citizen science, tends to focus on crowdsourcing data or analysis unlike this more explorative method. However, the study shows that useful and unexpected scientific results can come from this combined approach.

NOAA plans to make the full audible dataset public following the demonstration of its potential applications in the study. Scientists hope that they will be able to figure out the disturbances of the Earth’s magnetic shield that produce these decreasing pitch sounds and the reason behind them. This will help them to understand these sounds in a better way which might help them in improving the forecasting of space weather.

This is how a Solar Storm sounds like:

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