Ever wondered what the Earth’s magnetic field would sound like? The result may not be music to your ears.
Scientists from the Technical University of Denmark took magnetic signals measured by a satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA) and converted them into sound.
The result is a rumbling, ringing, crackling sound that wouldn’t look out of place in a horror movie soundtrack.
The researchers used the satellite data in this way to remind listeners of the magnetic field that continues to protect life on Earth from cosmic rays.
Musician and project supporter Klaus Nielsen said: ‘The team used data from ESA’s Swarm satellites and other sources, and used these magnetic signals to manipulate and control a sonic representation of the nuclear field.
“The rumble of the Earth’s magnetic field is accompanied by a representation of a geomagnetic storm that resulted from a solar flare on November 3, 2011, and that sounds pretty terrifying indeed.”
The sound of the Earth’s magnetic field
Scientists from the Technical University of Denmark took magnetic signals measured by a satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA) and converted them into sound waves (photo)
The magnetic field and electric currents in and around the Earth generate complex forces that have an immeasurable impact on everyday life. The field can be seen as a huge bubble that protects us from cosmic rays and charged particles that bombard the Earth in solar winds
WHAT IS THE EARTH’S MAGNETIC FIELD AND HOW DOES IT PROTECT US?
The Earth’s magnetic field is a layer of electrical charge that surrounds our planet.
The field protects life on our planet because it repels charged particles fired by the sun, known as “solar wind.”
Without this protective layer, these particles would likely take away the ozone layer, our only line of defense against harmful UV radiation.
The Earth’s magnetic field (blue) is a layer of electrical charge that surrounds our planet. The field protects life on our planet because it repels charged particles fired by the sun (orange), also known as ‘solar wind’ (artist’s impression)
Scientists believe that the Earth’s core is responsible for creating the magnetic field.
When molten iron escapes into the Earth’s outer core, convection currents are created.
These currents generate electrical currents that create the magnetic field in a natural process known as a geodynamo.
The Earth’s magnetic field is largely generated by the superheated, swirling liquid iron that forms our planet’s outer core, 3,000 km beneath our feet.
As heat escapes from the inner core, the iron moves in convection currents, generating powerful electrical currents.
The rotation of the Earth on its axis causes these electric currents to form a magnetic field that extends around the planet and extends into space.
The magnetic field not only makes compasses work, but also protects us from bombardments from cosmic rays and charged particles carried by solar winds.
The magnetic field can even attract some of these charged particles, causing them to collide with the atoms in the upper atmosphere, such as oxygen and nitrogen.
When they do this, some of the energy in the collisions is converted into the green-blue light — known as the aurora borealis or northern lights.
This is the only visual representation of the magnetic field that we can experience, but otherwise it is invisible and makes no sound.
ESA’s trio of Swarm satellites were launched in 2013 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia and are currently being used to understand exactly how our magnetic field is generated.
They do this by measuring the magnetic signals coming from Earth’s core, mantle, crust and oceans, as well as from the ionosphere and magnetosphere.
The Swarm mission is also investigating the effects of space weather on our atmosphere.
Researchers in Denmark collected the data from the Swarm satellites and translated it into sound waves, making our magnetic field audible for the first time.
The audio clip is accompanied by the sound of a solar storm.
It will be played all week at 8:00 AM, 1:00 PM and 7:00 PM through 30 speakers dug into the ground in Copenhagen’s Solbjerg Square.
Nielsen said: ‘We set it up so that each speaker represents a different location on Earth and shows how our magnetic field has fluctuated over the past 100,000 years.
‘The project has certainly been a rewarding exercise in bringing art and science together.’
The Earth’s magnetic field is largely generated by the superheated, swirling liquid iron that forms our planet’s outer core, 3,000 km below our feet. Pictured: strength of the magnetic field at the Earth’s surface
In 2019, astronomers recorded the eerie “song” sung by Earth’s magnetic field when it was hit by a storm of charged particles sent by the sun.
The result was a sonic version of the aurora borealis light show, which can be seen near the poles when charged particles interact with Earth’s atmosphere.
ESA experts analyzed the magnetic waves produced when these ‘solar winds’ pound the Earth, converting the results into audible frequencies.
Data for the study was collected by ESA’s Cluster II mission, which placed four identical spacecraft flying in formation in Earth’s so-called magnetosphere.
The psychedelic song was identified after the team steered the spacecraft through the “foreshock” region of the magnetic field.
This area faces the sun and is the first area to be affected by incoming solar storms.
Normally, the constant stream of charged particles that make up the solar wind causes the front shock to emit simple magnetic waves that—when converted into audio waves—sound something like a single, low-pitched musical note.
But when a solar storm hits Earth, its impact against the magnetic field’s foreshock causes this “music” to rise in pitch — and become much more complex.
Scientists reject fears Earth’s magnetic poles will flip and cause widespread power outages
Historically, the Earth’s north and south poles have flipped every 200,000 – 300,000 years.
However, the latter occurred about 780,000 years ago, leading many scientists to fear that a reversal might be coming.
If a magnetic flip happens, some experts argue it could make some parts of the Earth “uninhabitable” by shutting down power grids.
Fortunately, a new study has provided reassurance that it is highly unlikely that Earth’s magnetic poles will reverse any time soon.
Lund University researchers have collected data on Earth’s magnetic field strength dating back to 9,000 years and say there’s no evidence that a reversal is imminent.
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