BiSON – Sounds of the Sun

The Sun rings like a bell. The central frequency of the sound is far below human hearing, just 0.003 Hz. The sounds you hear as part of this work have been increased in speed by 100,000 times bringing the sound up to 300 Hz and into the range of our hearing. Of course, it is impossible to directly hear the sounds through the vacuum of space. Instead, the Birmingham Solar Oscillations Network (BiSON) at the University of Birmingham, UK, captures the data by making very precise measurements of how the oscillations cause tiny changes in the colour of the light emitted from the Sun. Measuring the oscillations allows exciting discoveries to be made about the internal structure of the Sun using a technique known as helioseismology, in the same way a geophysicist studies the Earth using seismic methods.

The first audio file is produced from 20 years of raw solar data, captured from the beginning of 1995 to the end of 2014. Playing at 2.5 kHz produces a 100,000 times speed up with a resulting audio file of just over 1 hour and 22 minutes.

The second audio file is the same as the previous one, but it has been filtered to contain only the solar oscillation band, i.e., 2 mHz — 5 mHz filtered with a 48 dB per octave roll-off band-pass (200 Hz — 500 Hz after speed-up).

The filtered version of the audio was recently used by Swarovski as a soundscape of the Sun for their El Sol installation, a scale model of the Sun made from 2,880 precision cut crystals, at the Design Miami fair in 2015.

Here is a BibTeX entry for citations:

  author = {{Hale}, S.~J.}, 
  title = {BiSON - Sounds of the Sun},
  publisher = {Birmingham Solar Oscillations Network},
  year = 2015,
  month = december,
  url = {}
Posted in Geekorama.

Steven Hale leads the operation and development of the international Birmingham Solar Oscillations Network (BiSON), a global network of automated robotic solar telescope run by the University of Birmingham in the UK. His research interests are instrumentation and electronics, and high-resolution optical spectroscopy techniques. In his spare time he has many interests including photography and aviation, and has a private helicopter license rated on the Robinson R22 and R44 aircraft.

This is a private blog and in no way represents opinions or endorsements from the University of Birmingham.

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