Science

Listen to the terrifying rumble of the Earth’s magnetic field as it’s being attacked by a solar storm.

If you’re looking for something unsettling from space this October, the soundtrack of converted data released by the European Space Agency (ESA) provides an unsettling audio representation of the Earth’s magnetic field under attack.

The Earth’s magnetic field is generated by superheated, spinning liquid iron at the planet’s core and, crucially, protects life on the surface from a barrage of cosmic radiation and charged particles. Sometimes we can see these interactions as blue-green auroras near the poles, but usually they are not audible.

However, a team at the Danish University of Technology has made the invisible audible by collecting data from three ESA satellites launched in 2013 to measure the Earth’s magnetic signals and convert them into sound. The result is a somewhat unnerving vision of a rumbling magnetic field and collision with solar flare particles.

On the subject: Astronaut notices a bright storm of northern lights from the International Space Station (photo)

Artistic depiction of the Earth’s magnetic field protecting the planet. (Image credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

The sound is available online, but was designed to be listened to through a sound system of more than 30 loudspeakers dug into the ground on Solbjerg Square in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“The team used data from ESA’s Swarm satellites, as well as other sources, and used these magnetic signals to manipulate and control the sonic representation of the main field,” musician and project backer Klaus Nielsen said in a statement.

“The rumble of the Earth’s magnetic field is accompanied by an image of a geomagnetic storm resulting from a solar flare on November 3, 2011, and it really sounds quite frightening,” Nielsen said.

The magnetic signals used include signals passing through the mantle, the earth’s crust and oceans, as well as from the ionosphere and magnetosphere, so sounds suggestive of an earthquake are somewhat appropriate.

Visitors to the square can listen to the data sounding project until October 30.

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