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No. 81: May-Jun 1992

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Auroral Sounds

March 13, 1989. This night on a cattle ranch in South Dakota, L. Hasselstrom was dazzled by waves of blue auroral light sweeping up from the horizon and meeting at a focal point nearly directly overhead. As the sky blazed, with the blue waves and crimson streamers, she heard:

"...a distant tinkling, like bells. It came again, louder, just as a curtain of green light swept the entire width of the sky from north to south. Each time green flushed the sky, the bells rang, the sound softening to a gentle tinkle as the light died."

(Hasselstrom, Linda; "Night of the Bells," Readers Digest, p. 185, April 1992. Cr. J.B. Dotson.)

Comment. Note the correlation of the sound with the green portion of the aurora.

July 29, 1990. On Coll Island in Centennial Lake, 120 kilometers west of Ottawa. Watching an auroral display, L.R. Morris heard the sound of the aurora:

"It was a faint but distant windlike sound; which, by process of elimination, could not be accounted for by any phenomenon other than the aurora."

(Anonymous; "Auroral Sounds," Sky & Telescope, 83:105, January 1992. Cr. D. Snowhook.)

Comment. Auroras have been heard for centuries, but they "shouldn't be." Current theory restricts auroral activity to altitudes above 50 miles, where a fair vacuum prevails, and sound generation and propagation are impossible. One explanation for auroral sounds is that intense electromagnetic waves created by the auroras sweep through the observer's brain and are rendered as sound (electrophonic sound). But perhaps some auroras reach down lower into the atmosphere than theory allows. See GSH3 in our catalog: Earthquakes, Tides, Unidentified Sounds. To order, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #81, MAY-JUN 1992. 1992-2000 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