Scientists are now confirming that the Northern Lights really do ‘Speak’

Can the aurora “talk”?

When a geomagnetic storm is raging above you, you will most likely hear happy sounds from northern lights-chasers if you are outside. There have been legends for centuries that the aurora makes a sound, but other than the occasional “wow” or clicking of shutters, there are myths and legends about it.

Accounts from Greenland and the Shetland Islands in northern Canada, Norway, and Greenland suggest that auroras (which can occur hundreds of miles above the Earth’s surface) come with a whistle, a whizz, or a crackle, or both. One account said that it was like two planks met flatly. It did not produce a sharp crack, but a dull sound loud enough to be heard by all.

Dismissed as psycho-acoustic phenomena–science-speak for “you’re imagining it”–new recordings from Aalto University in Finland suggests that there is a strong link between geomagnetic fluctuations and “auroral sounds.”

The solar wind in space is responsible for the northern and southern lights. This is caused by charged particles from the Sun being accelerated down the field lines within the Earth’s magnet field. The charged particles colliding in molecules of oxygen with nitrogen molecules causes the green light.

When the conditions are right, it is possible for warm air to trap static charges around 75m above ground. This charge will discharge when the air cools. You might hear a crackle or pop occasionally.

The aurora can be seen, but it is possible for the sound to occur in other places. This was surprising because legends had always linked strong, vibrant displays of the northern light directly above the observer to sounds.

“This disproves the argument that auroral sound are rare, and that the aurora borealis ought to be extremely bright and vibrant,” stated Unto K. Leine, Emeritus Professor at Aalto University, and the lead author of a new published paper that was presented at the Baltic Nordic Acoustic Meeting, Aalborg, Denmark.

Four hours of recording of auroral sounds were made by Laine near Fiskars in Finland, approximately 56 miles/90 km west of Helsinki.

Although there were no northern light displays on that night, the sound recordings were compared to geomagnetic activity measurements by the Finnish Meteorological Institute. There was a strong correlation. The paper found that the best 60 candidate “auroral sounds”, were all related to changes in the geomagnetic fields.

Laine believes he now knows when the northern lights will emit a sound because of this correlation. Laine stated, “It’s possible to predict when auroral noises will occur in my recordings using the geomagnetic data that was independently measured.” The sounds are more common than people thought. However, when they hear them, many people mistakenly believe it to be ice crackling or a dog or another animal.

Is there a boom in people heading north to see and hear the aurora?

“It’s fascinating because if we look at the myths about the northern lights from Greenland they involve a whistling, crackling sound… There was a strong feeling the aurora could talk,” stated Tom Kerss. He is the author of Northern Lights but was not involved in this research. It’s the white whale that chases auroras–I have never heard it.

The aurora oval forms around the North Pole, at approximately 66-69deg North latitudes –the Arctic Circle. Alaska, Canada, Iceland and Greenland are the best places to view them.

The “season” for northern lights is September to March. However, it’s not getting darker above the Arctic Circle where they most often occur continuously. You may still be capable of hearing them…

I wish you clear skies, wide eyes and clear skies.

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