SOUNDS: Hear the Flash

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Science  06 Apr 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5514, pp. 19
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5514.19c

Earth is singing. We just couldn't hear it—until now. The odd and eerie atmospheric sounds you can hear at's INSPIRE page are gathered by a very low frequency radio receiver linked to a live feed to the Web.

The earthly symphony is largely the result of lightning and occurs at radio frequencies ranging from a few hundred hertz to 10 kilohertz. The lightning bursts that sound like bacon frying are called “sferics” (short for “atmospherics”). “Tweeks” develop when sferics musically ricochet through the atmosphere. The dynamic spectra of a “whistler”—a sound best described as a spaceship whizzing by in a B movie—is shown here.

To maximize your listening pleasure, try tuning in to this page—orchestrated by the National Space Science Technology Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and the Interactive NASA Space Physics Ionosphere Radio Experiments (INSPIRE)—at dawn or dusk, when the music of our sphere is most inspired.

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