Space & Astronomy
Mysterious meteor hissing sound solved ?
By T.K. Randall
March 4, 2017 · 6 comments
Why do meteors sometimes generate strange sounds ? Image Credit: YouTube / NHK / ElDI SuperNova
Scientists may have finally solved the mystery of the unexplained hissing sound associated with meteors.
Described as a hissing, popping or sizzling sound, this peculiar noise can sometimes be heard when a particularly bright meteor or fireball lights up the sky at least as intensely as a full moon.
The phenomenon, being very rare indeed, has proven extremely difficult to study.
In the past it has been suggested that the sounds are radio-frequency emissions, however scientists have since played down this theory because they are typically heard without dedicated receivers.
Now though, a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports
has attributed a phenomenon known as "photoacoustic coupling" - something that has been known about for over a century.
In the case of meteors, light may be warming up the surface of the object, causing it to radiate heat. This then produces pressure oscillations in the air which can manifest as audible sounds.
The study authors even performed a series of experiments on a variety of materials to test out whether exposing them to the same light produced by bright fireballs generated any noise.
Their results confirmed that the process did indeed produce the sounds they were expecting.
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