Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 12: Fall 1980

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Anomalous Sounds From An Australian Fireball

On April 7, 1978, a very large fireball passed through the atmosphere above the east coast of New South Wales. Seen by hundreds, it generated many high quality reports. Fifteen of the written reports mentioned anomalous sounds -- hisses, hums, swishes, and crackling sounds heard simultaneously with the visual sighting. Such sounds are anomalous because the meteor is tens of kilometers high and real sound would take a minute or more to reach the ground. (The sound from a detonating meteor is often heard several minutes later.)

Keay is convinced of the reality of the anomalous sounds and suggests that the highly turbulent plasma in the meteor wake generates powerful electromagnetic radiation at audio frequencies. This intense radio energy reaches the earth at the same time the visible light does. It may be converted into sound as it interacts with the surface and the observer.

(Keay, Colin S.L.; "The 1978 New South Wales Fireball," Nature, 285:464, 1980.)

Reference. Sounds from high-altitude meteors ("electrophonic" sounds) are covered in GSH2 in our Catalog: Earthquakes, Tides, Anomalous Sounds. Information on this book is posted here.

From Science Frontiers #12, Fall 1980. 1980-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987