Hear the roaring sound of Earth’s magnetic field

The magnetic field is essential in maintaining our planet hospitable. Although we can’t see it, it is there. Up until now, we couldn’t hear it. Now, here is your chance.

The magnetic field plays an integral role in life on Earth. Up until now, we couldn’t see or hear it. ESA’s Swarm satellite mission measured magnetic signals, which researchers from the Technical University of Denmark converted into sound. And it is quite a surprise. We are protected from cosmic radiation and charged particles carried by powerful winds that flow from the Sun by Earth’s magnetic field. In the upper atmosphere, these particles collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms and molecules. This transforms some of their energy into the green-blue light that is characteristic of the aurora borealis, which can sometimes be observed at high altitudes.

Swarm satellites

Even though the aurora borealis displays charged particles from the Sun interacting with Earth’s magnetic field, it is another thing entirely to actually hear the magnetic field generated by Earth and its interaction with solar winds. In the outer core, around 3000 km beneath our feet, a superheated, swirling ocean of liquid iron generates most of our magnetic field.

Using ESA’s Swarm satellites, launched in 2013, researchers are trying to figure out how exactly the magnetic field of our planet is generated. These satellites measure the magnetic signals of the mantle, crust, ocean, ionosphere, magnetosphere, and core. Space weather is also being studied by Swarm.

A sonic representation

“The team used magnetic signals from the ESA’s Swarm satellites, as well as other sources, to manipulate and control a sonic representation of the core field,” explains Klaus Nielsen from the Technical University of Denmark. This project has certainly brought art and science together in a rewarding way.” This audio clip represents a solar storm and the magnetic field created by Earth’s core, and to some, it might sound terrible.

Over 30 loudspeakers dug into the ground at Solbjerg Square in Copenhagen, provided the researchers with access to an intriguing sound system. The scientists arranged each speaker to represent a different location on Earth, demonstrating how our magnetic field has fluctuated over time.

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