June 21, 2010

Scientists Record Music From The Sun

Astronomers at the University of Sheffield have recorded sound from the sun for the first time in history.

They found that the huge magnetic loops coiling away from the outer layer of the sun's atmosphere vibrate like strings on a musical instrument.

They behave more like soundwaves as they travel through a wind instrument.

The scientists used satellite images of these loops to recreate the sound by tuning the visible vibrations into noises and speeding up the frequency so it is audible to the human ear.

Professor Robertus von Fáy-Siebenbrgen, head of the solar physics research group at Sheffield University, told Telegraph.co.uk: "It was strangely beautiful and exciting to hear these noises for the first time from such a large and powerful source."

"It is a sort of music as it has harmonics."

"It is providing us with a new way of learning about the sun and giving us a new insight into the physics that goes on at in the sun's outer layers where temperatures reach millions of degrees."

The coronal loops are thought to be involved in the production of solar flares that fling highly charged particles out into space, which creates a phenomenon known as space weather.

The sun's activity creates these solar flare productions, which result in "space storms."

They could have a catastrophic effect on earth, destroying electronic equipment, overheating power grids and damaging satellites.

NASA said last week that the sun's activity is starting to increase, following an extended period of low activity.  They also said that it is on course to throw out unprecedented levels of magnetic energy into the solar system by 2013.

Fáy-Siebenbrgen said that studying the "music of the sun" would help discover new ways of understanding and predicting solar flares before they happen.

The coronal loops vibrate from side to side because they are "plucked" like guitar strings from explosions on the surface of the sun.

The scientists also found the loops vibrate backwards and forwards in a way that mimics the acoustic waves in a wind instrument.

Fáy-Siebenbrgen's research came about as the University of Sheffield launched a new project, known as Project Sunshine, aimed at trying to discover new ways to harness and understand the power of the sun.

He said: "These loops are oscillating like the strings on a guitar or the air in a wind instrument. Over time the waves die away and that is telling us new things about the physics in the sun's atmosphere."


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