The results vindicate folktales and reports by wilderness travelers, which have long described sounds associated with the northern lights (which are also known as the aurora borealis).
“In the past, researchers thought that the aurora borealis was too far away for people to hear the sounds it made,” Unto Laine, from Aalto University in Finland, said in a statement released today.
“This is true,” Laine added. “However, our research proves that the source of the sounds that are associated with the aurora borealis we see is likely caused by the same energetic particles from the sun that create the northern lights far away in the sky. These particles or the geomagnetic disturbance produced by them seem to create sound much closer to the ground.”
Laine and his colleagues determined the location of the clapping noise by comparing sounds captured by three microphones set up at a site with high auroral activity. Simultaneous measurements made by the Finnish Meteorological Institute showed a typical pattern of northern lights episodes at the time, researchers said.
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Photo credit: GuideGunnar