Have you ever heard the crackling sound of a meteor burning across the sky? Turns out, what you’re hearing has less to do with the meteor’s sound and more to do with the light it produces.
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Sandia researchers offer explanation for hissing and popping noises heard from meteors
“Over the years, witnesses of falling meteors have reported hearing a wide variety of noises that appear to come from the rapidly descending fireball. While it is not surprising that meteors would emit noise as they streak through the Earth’s atmosphere, it is surprising that they would be heard during the meteor’s descent because of the distance. Meteors are generally first noticed as they begin burning many miles high in the atmosphere-and most land equally far away from witnesses. So, how could people hear emitted sounds as they are being made? That was what the team at Sandia Labs sought to answer.”
Photoacoustic Sounds from Meteors
“Concurrent sound associated with very bright meteors manifests as popping, hissing, and faint rustling sounds occurring simultaneously with the arrival of light from meteors. Numerous instances have been documented with ?11 to ?13 brightness. These sounds cannot be attributed to direct acoustic propagation from the upper atmosphere for which travel time would be several minutes. Concurrent sounds must be associated with some form of electromagnetic energy generated by the meteor, propagated to the vicinity of the observer, and transduced into acoustic waves.”
“Another form of sound frequently reported with bright fireballs is ‘electrophonic’ sound, which occurs coincidentally with the visible fireball. The reported sounds range from hissing static, to sizzling, to popping sounds. Often, the witness of such sounds is located near some metal object when the fireball occurs. Additionally, those with a large amount of hair seem to have a better chance of hearing these sounds.”
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