The Earth’s magnetic field moves like a liquid around the solid core of the Earth. This field acts as a shield against space radiation: if it did not exist, the Earth would be continuously bombarded with cosmic rays and charged particles from space. This is also known as solar wind.
When the solar wind collides with atoms and molecules, such as oxygen and nitrogen, those collisions are converted into a green-blue light. Also known as the Northern Lights, or auroris borealis. So these northern lights are a visual representation of all charged particles colliding with the Earth’s magnetic field.
To understand exactly how the Earth’s magnetic field works, three ESA Swarm satellites were sent to space in 2013. These satellites have to measure, among other things, the magnetic signals.
This has produced a very special result: the signals measured by the satellites have been converted into sound. Musician and project supporter Klaus Nielsen calls it “a rewarding exercise in bringing art and science together”.
The scientists have dug a sound system, consisting of more than thirty loudspeakers, in the ground on Solbjerg Square in Copenhagen. “We’ve set up the system so that each speaker represents a different place on Earth,” says the project leader. “This shows how our magnetic field has moved over the past 100,000 years.”
The sound is “pretty scary” according to Nielsen, because the recording is accompanied by the sound of a geomagnetic storm.
Those who want to experience the sound live can come and listen to the rumble all week in Copenhagen. But if you don’t feel like a trip to Denmark, you can also listen to the sound here: