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Is it possible to hear meteors during meteor showers? And if so, what is it like?

During meteor showers, the sky is flooded with dozens of shooting stars scattering across the sky, a luminous effect that fully impacts our sense of sight. But, on more than one occasion, people have reported that they not only observed the meteors in the sky but also heard them, is this possible? Science says yes.

Here’s a brief explanation of how a meteor shower sounds and if you can really hear it if you are thousands of miles away.

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Can meteors be heard?

Meteors are a great reminder that cosmic dust exists and that the Earth’s atmosphere protects us from it. When remnants of material left behind by comets come into contact with the Earth’s orbit, the planet suffers the effect of so-called meteor showers. The small rocks, most of which are the size of a large sandstone, enter the atmosphere with such speed that they catch fire. This is why we can see them as shooting stars streaking across the sky.

But on occasion, meteor shower observers have reported hearing the passing of the rocks. It has been described as a low whistling sound, like sizzling bacon, when the larger meteors appear in the sky. And astronomers explain that these descriptions may be true and tell us why it happens.

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Sonic meteors vs. electrophonic

Science didn’t always believe meteor shower observers who reported hearing the sounds of these rocks. It was labeled more as an imaginative experience because a meteor burns at about 100 kilometers of altitude. Considering that sound travels much slower than light, it was said that the sound of meteors could not be captured until many minutes after its passage through the sky. Similar to what happens with lightning that discharges its light in a certain time, but the sound takes time to reach us and we hear the thunder out of phase with its lights.

When a meteor appears at about 100 kilometers high, its sound explodes about 5 minutes after being seen. This is called a ‘sonic meteor’. However, observers have described hearing meteors the instant they pass across the sky. Now astronomers do believe this is possible because it could be very low frequency (VLF) radio waves that are also emitted by meteors.

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Low-frequency radio waves belong to the electromagnetic spectrum and therefore travel at the speed of light. There is a small drawback and that is that radio waves cannot be heard by our ears, but scientists explain that this type of wave can generate the vibration of other objects on land, which translates into an audible sound for humans. This phenomenon is called electrophonic.

Unlike sonic meteors, electrophonic can be heard instantly and is the reason why many people have described hearing meteors passing through the sky. Therefore, from the point of view of science, it is possible to hear meteors instantly during a meteor shower.

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Story originally published in Ecoosfera

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