Sounds of a meteor shower

Contributed by
Oct 3, 2011
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In August, I wrote about how you can listen to meteors: radar bounced off their ion trail can be converted to sound, making eerie, creepy noises.

Via astronaut Ron Garan comes this video of recordings made by the U.S. Air Force Space Surveillance Radar in Texas during the Perseid meteor shower. It's very, very cool:


As I wrote in the earlier post, here's how this works:

You're not really hearing sound, of course: meteors burn up in our atmosphere at a height of 100 km or so, too high to directly carry sound waves. But the Air Force has a radar surveillance facility in Texas that beams radio waves into the sky. When a bit of cosmic fluff streaks through our sky, the ionized trail it leaves reflects the radio waves, producing an echo. This radio wave is then translated into sound, so you can effectively hear a meteor!

The initial "whoosh" is from the meteor itself, and the dying whistling sound is from the ionized gas it leaves behind, which slowly recombines and fades.

... which is all well and good, but science aside, all I could think of while listening to that was the soundtrack to Ren and Stimpy walking along the landscape inside the hideous vortex of the black hole.


Related posts:

- A meteor's lingering tale
- Listen in on the Perseid meteor shower
- Saturn, the forbidden planet
- Phoenix sings