The Sun Isn't Silent — Hear Its Song in New Observatory Data

The sun is not silent; in fact, it has a surprisingly soothing sound. 

Have you ever listened to the sun? Thanks to data from the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), now you can. Using 20 years of data on the dynamic movement of the sun's atmosphere, researchers have made it possible for us to listen to the sun's eruptions, loops, waves and other activity. 

It turns out that the sun produces a low, pulsing "heartbeat." But these sounds are more than just the hottest tracks from NASA scientists. Listening to the sun gives scientists a different way to observe and study not only Earth's sun, but also other stars in the universe, according to a statement. [Anatomy of Sun Storms & Solar Flares (Infographic)]

"Waves are traveling and bouncing around inside the sun, and if your eyes were sensitive enough, they could actually see this," Alex Young, associate director for science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in the statement.

Using a solar observatory to measure the sun's vibrations — which can be translated into sound — reveals what's going on inside and can help scientists to study everything from solar flares to coronal mass ejections in the sun, according to the statement. 

"We don't have straightforward ways to look inside the sun. We don't have a microscope to zoom inside the sun, so using a star or the sun's vibrations allows us to see inside of it," Young continued. 

The Stanford Experimental Physics Lab turned data from SOHO into a "song." They worked with the sun's natural vibrations, which make up the hum and "heartbeat" that you may hear in the recording. 

To create the audio clip above, researcher Alexander Kosovichev of Stanford University processed 40 days of data from SOHO's Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI). In processing the vibrations, he removed effects from the spacecraft's movement, selected clean sound waves that would be clearer to hear and sped the data up by a factor of 42,000 to bring it up to the audible range for humans. 

With this strange, soothing, stellar audio, scientists "can see huge rivers of solar material flowing around. We are finally starting to understand the layers of the sun and the complexity. That simple sound is giving us a probe inside of a star. I think that's a pretty cool thing," Young said in the statement. 

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.