Put horror movies and games aside for a few minutes to listen to something truly unsettling this Halloween season. The European Space Agency has released audio of what our planet's magnetic field sounds like. While it protects us from cosmic radiation and charged particles from solar winds, it turns out that the magnetic field has an unnerving rumble.
You can't exactly point a microphone at the sky and hear the magnetic field (nor can we see it). Scientists from the Technical University of Denmark converted data collected by the ESA's three Swarm satellites into sound, representing both the magnetic field and a solar storm.
The ethereal audio reminds me of wooden wind chimes rattling as a mass of land shifts, perhaps during an earthquake. It brings to mind the cracking sounds of a moving glacier as well. You might get something different out of the five-minute clip.
“The team used data from ESA’s Swarm satellites, as well as other sources, and used these magnetic signals to manipulate and control a sonic representation of the core field. The project has certainly been a rewarding exercise in bringing art and science together," the university's Klaus Nielsen, a musician and supporter of the project, said. “The rumbling of Earth’s magnetic field is accompanied by a representation of a geomagnetic storm that resulted from a solar flare on November 3rd, 2011, and indeed it sounds pretty scary."
If you happen to visit Solbjerg Square in Copenhagen this week, you may be able to immerse yourself in the magnetic field's low rumble. More than 30 loudspeakers are pointed at the ground there. They'll broadcast the audio three times daily until October 30th. “We have set it up so that each speaker represents a different location on Earth and demonstrates how our magnetic field has fluctuated over the last 100,000 years," Nielsen said.
This isn't the first time researchers have turned data from otherwise silent forces into sound. Last year, NASA released an audio representation of magnetic field activity around Jupiter's moon Ganymede. More recently, we got to hear a terrifying depiction of what a black hole sounds like.