Anomalous Sounds from the Entry of Meteor Fireballs

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Science  03 Oct 1980:
Vol. 210, Issue 4465, pp. 11-15
DOI: 10.1126/science.210.4465.11


A very bright fireball observed over New South Wales in 1978 produced anomalous sounds clearly audible to some of the observers. An investigation of the phenomenon indicates that bright fireballs radiate considerable electromagnetic energy in the very-low-frequency (VLF) region of the spectrum. A mechanism for the production of VLF emissions from the highly energetic wake turbulence of the fireball is proposed. Trials with human subjects revealed a very extended range of thresholds for the perception of electrically excited sounds among a sample population, particularly when the VLF electric field excites surface acoustic waves in surrounding objects. This fact, together with variable propagation effects and local conditions, can account for the sporadic distribution of reports of anomalous sounds from fireballs and auroras.