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Space & Astronomy

Mysterious meteor hissing sound solved ?

By T.K. Randall
March 4, 2017 · Comment icon 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.

Source: | Comments (6)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Parsec 6 years ago
This explanation sounds brilliant! 
Comment icon #2 Posted by Aten 6 years ago
So, what?... a hissing, popping or sizzling sound can be heard coming from them, wow, i would have thought just total silence, what a surprise, glad to see research money being spent wisely.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 6 years ago
If you knew even a tiny amount about physics you wold realise that total silence is EXACTLY what should be expected. An object 50 miles up traveling at hypersonic speeds should be long gone before any sound reached an observer on the ground. The fact that observers hear the meteor at the same time as seeing it shows that some previously unknown phenomenon is occurring.  Since the entire point of scientific research is to explain unknown phenomena this is about as good an example of research money being spent wisely as you are likely to find.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Merc14 6 years ago
What an amazing find!@  I had no idea this was even possible and now this theory can be applied to some other mysteries, I am sure.  
Comment icon #5 Posted by taniwha 6 years ago
The next step would be to record the sounds as they happen.
Comment icon #6 Posted by EBE Hybrid 6 years ago
It almost sounds as if the light is acting as a carrier wave

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