Aug 16, 2017 | Updated: 01:24 PM EDT

The ‘Music Of The Meteors’: Is It For Real?

Apr 18, 2017 11:48 AM EDT

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THE METEORS WHEN ARCING THROUGH THE ATMOSPHERE PRODUCE A HISSING SOUND
(Photo : Ethan Miller/Staff) A Perseid meteor streaks across the sky above Inspiration Point early on August 12, 2016 in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

The universe is dark, mysterious and infinite. Every day something new is being discovered about the heavenly bodies that populate the unending space.

One such phenomenon, claimed by some observers, is that meteors, popularly known as shooting stars, emanate an audible hiss sound for the duration they shoot through the night sky.

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Lovingly called 'the music of the meteors', this phenomenon has its skeptics. They maintain that the speed of sound is much slower than that of light, so the 'music' should logically come after the meteor has disintegrated.

However, scientists claim that it is possible to perceive the sound of a meteor at nearly the same time the meteor arcs through the sky. People living in high latitudes lend credence to this fact, as they claim that auroras, too, produce sound as the high-energy particles collide with gas particles in the upper atmosphere.

Science quotes Colin Price, an atmospheric scientist at Tel Aviv University in Israel and co-author of a new study, thus: "The conversion from electromagnetic waves to sound waves ... is exactly how your radio works. But, in this case, nature provides the conversion between electronic waves and acoustic waves."

If this is so, why are these sounds not being reported? As per the bilingual Atman Information, there were only 40 reports of meteor sounds in 2016 and that too by amateur sky watchers. The American Meteor Society has also found it difficult to back this claim, due to lack of audio recordings.

Price and Michael Kelley, physicists at Cornell University, explain through a model developed by them, that when a meteor shoots through the Earth's atmosphere, it ionizes the air to produce positively and negatively charged electrons. This generates a large electric field in meteor's wake that produces the radio waves, whose intensity depends upon the Earth's atmosphere and meteor's speed.

Another hypothesis assumes that visible light from the meteor produces sound waves by heating up materials, such as hair and glasses. But this claim too is unsubstantiated.

Whatever be the reason, one thing is clear that this phenomenon begs research. Finding the actual reason would certainly be a feather in the scientists' caps.


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