Listen to the never before heard 'solar song' of the Northern Lights

A process called Audification has enabled scientists to show people for the first time what the Northern Lights sound like

Credit: HARP Project/NASA

The unheard 'solar songs' of the Northern and Southern Lights have been converted into audible tracks, revealing an orchestra of whistles, whooshes, and chirps.

The melody that resonates inside Earth's magnetic shield is ordinarily too low in frequency for human beings to hear.

But scientists, through a process known as Audification, have been able to change that.

A NASA-funded project, called Heliophysics Audified: Resonances in Plasmas (HARP), has studied the super-sonic winds blown out by the Sun in all directions of our Solar System, including Earth.

Plasmas - charged particles - are blasted at the Earth in the form of solar winds and magnetic storms - similar to weather conditions experienced on Earth.

Scientists have found a way of converting plasma waves from space into an eerily beautiful orchestra of sounds, as ITV News reporter Sangita Lal explains

Dr Martin Archer, a space plasma physicist with Imperial College London, told ITV News: "What you're hearing here is essentially a giant magnetic musical instrument that occurs out in space.

"It gets plucked by the solar wind that comes out from the Sun and it causes these reverberations, vibrations, within our own magnetic shield.

"What you're hearing is a satellite measuring that, that we have turned into audible sound."

Audification involves measuring - via satellites - the magnetic fields created when plasmas move and converting them into sounds.

Earth's magnetic field acts like a protective bubble when these plasmas approach, mostly pushing the particles out of the way.

The bubble, called the magnetosphere, never stands still, is always moving and changing, and can vibrate in wave-like motions, in response to the solar wind - like a plucked magnetic harp.

Dr Martin Archer explains how scientists have been able to convert charged particles into audible sounds

Is there sound in space?

'In space, no one can hear you scream': So goes the tagline for sci-fi cult-hit film Alien.

Surely, there's no sound out there?

"Oh but there is. That is just wrong," explains Dr Archer. "People say that there's no sound in space because they think that space is a vacuum that is absolutely empty.

"But it's just actually pervaded with lots of particles, they're just very spaced out. Sound is actually possible, it's just not audible."

Public asked to tune in to the solar song

Now, HARP is asking for members of the public to take part in sifting through the wealth of satellite data being collected, as computer algorithms can find it difficult to find complex or feint sound patterns.

Dr Archer said humans have an innate ability to solve this problem "so well", adding: "We think that there's real hope in getting lots of members of the public to use their sense of hearing to pick out these things in a way that we might not be able to do just by rolling out our computers."

Some plasma vibrations can even power the Northern and Southern lights (Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis).

These spectacular shows of light dancing in the night sky are the visible evidence that Earth's magnetic field is interacting with plasma from the Sun.

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The creation of sounds as well as both the Northern and Southern Lights are considered "somewhat related", according to Dr Archer.

He added: "We think there's a link between these sounds causing them to move around but that's one thing that we're still not entirely sure about.

"So, they're just two different ways that the Sun can cause reactions in our space environment."