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Researchers prove sounds of the Northern Lights can be heard

Folktales about sounds of the Northern Lights being heard during an auroral display have been around for centuries but now researchers at Aalto University in Finland have finally proved it and located where the sounds are created. The sounds were located 70 metres above ground level and measured by three separate microphones set up in an observation site where auroral sounds were heard. Sounds captured were compared and researchers determined the location of the sound source. While monitoring the sound there was simultaneous measurements of geomagnetic disturbances  indicating a typical pattern ofan aurora episode.

Professor Unto K. Laine from Aalto University made the following statement, 'Our research proved that, during the occurrence of the northern lights, people can hear natural auroral sounds related to what they see. In the past, researchers thought that the aurora borealis was too far away for people to hear the sounds it made. This is true. However, our research proves that the source of the sounds that are associated with the aurora borealis we see is likely caused by the same energetic particles from the sun that create the northern lights far away in the sky. These particles or the geomagnetic disturbance produced by them seem to create sound much closer to the ground.'

How the sounds are created is unknown and reports of the sounds note them as distant splutters. The recorded, unamplified sounds are similar to crackles or muffled bangs. These varying descriptions of the auroral sounds has led the research team to belive there are several causes and mechanisms behind the formation. Distinguishing the auroral noises from the ambient noise around them is difficult as the sounds are incredibly soft.

The Aalto University researcher's study will be published in the proceedings of the 19th International Congress of Sound and Vibration, Lithuania (8 to 12 July 2012).

Want to see and maybe hear the aurora borealis, check out our Northern Light trips.