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Origins: Music of the Sphere

21 Apr 07 - 10:32 AM (#2031944)
Subject: Origins: Music of the Sphere
From: GUEST,282RA

Sun's Atmosphere Sings

Jeanna Bryner
Staff Writer
Thu Apr 19, 11:30 AM ET

Astronomers have recorded heavenly music bellowed out by the Sun's atmosphere.

Snagging orchestra seats for this solar symphony would be fruitless, however, as the frequency of the sound waves is below the human hearing threshold. While humans can make out sounds between 20 and 20,000 hertz, the solar sound waves are on the order of milli-hertz--a thousandth of a hertz.

The study, presented this week at the Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy Meeting in Lancashire, England, reveals that the looping magnetic fields along the Sun's outer regions, called the corona, carry magnetic sound waves in a similar manner to musical instruments such as guitars or pipe organs.

Making music

Robertus von Fay-Siebenburgen of the Solar Physics and Space Plasma Research Center at the University of Sheffield and his colleagues combined information gleaned from sun-orbiting satellites with theoretical models of solar processes, such as coronal mass ejections.

They found that explosive events at the Sun's surface appear to trigger acoustic waves that bounce back and forth between both ends of the loops, a phenomenon known as a standing wave.

"These magnetic loops are analogous to a simple guitar string," von Fay-Siebenburgen explained. "If you pluck a guitar string, you will hear the music."

In the cosmic equivalent of a guitar pick, so-called microflares at the base of loops could be plucking the magnetic loops and setting the sound waves in motion, the researchers speculate. While solar flares are the largest explosions in the solar system, microflares are a million times smaller but much more frequent; both phenomena are now thought to funnel heat into the Sun's outer atmosphere.

The acoustic waves can be extremely energetic, reaching heights of tens of miles, and can travel at rapid speeds of 45,000 to 90,000 miles per hour. "These [explosions] release energy equivalent to millions of hydrogen bombs," von Fay-Siebenburgen said.

"These energies are plucking these magnetic strings or standing pipes, which set up standing waves--exactly the same waves you see on a guitar string," von Fay-Siebenburgen told The "sound booms" decay to silence in less than an hour, dissipating in the hot solar corona.

Solar physics

The musical finding could help explain why the Sun's corona is so hot.

While the Sun's surface is a steamy 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5,538 degrees Celsius), plasma gas in the corona soars to more than 100 times hotter.

"How can the atmosphere above the surface of the Sun be hotter if nuclear fusion happens inside the Sun?" von Fay-Siebenburgen said. If astronomers can get a clearer picture of what's going on inside these magnetic loops in the Sun's atmosphere, they have a better chance of finding the answer.

Another recent study using images from Hinode's telescope revealed twisted magnetic fields along the Sun's surface, which store huge amounts of energy. The magnetic fields can snap like a rubber band; when they do, they might release energy that could heat up the corona or power solar eruptions and coronal mass ejections, the researchers say.

Looks like Pythagoras was right

21 Apr 07 - 10:40 AM (#2031948)
Subject: RE: Origins: Music of the Sphere
From: leeneia

That's interesting. Thanks for posting.

21 Apr 07 - 10:46 AM (#2031953)
Subject: RE: Origins: Music of the Sphere
From: GUEST,282RA

It would be interesting to take these recordings of the sun's music and use a computer to raise the pitch until it just reaches the level of human perception. Then why not keep raising it or speeding it up or both?

21 Apr 07 - 10:47 AM (#2031954)
Subject: RE: Origins: Music of the Sphere
From: mack/misophist

Rather disappointing without sound files. Don't tell me it's under copyright already!

21 Apr 07 - 10:50 AM (#2031957)
Subject: RE: Origins: Music of the Sphere
From: GUEST,282RA

As it is right now, you can't hear it. It's well below the range of perception. But a computer could keep doubling the frequency until it enters our perception but I don't think anyone's actually done that yet.

21 Apr 07 - 11:02 AM (#2031964)
Subject: RE: Origins: Music of the Sphere
From: katlaughing

My brother's been writing about this for years, both in text and in his classical music. I'll post some more later after I've had a chance to ask him a couple of questions.

21 Apr 07 - 11:05 AM (#2031966)
Subject: RE: Origins: Music of the Sphere
From: GUEST,282RA

Below are links to various sites concerning natural radio, that is, ELF and VLF frequencies. In this range, earth's magnetosphere can be tuned into. Auroras can cause all interesting manner of disturbances that send ripples through the magnetosphere that we can listen in on as radio signals. But we are mainly dealing with "sferics" when we use natural radio. Sferics describes the process of lightning strikes happening all over the earth which makes a constant background noise while listening to natural radio. You can verify this yourself by tuning your AM band to some blank part of the dial. The crackles you hear are lightning strikes, some of them from halfway around the earth. When these strikes disturb the plasma flux of the magnetosphere—earth's magnetic field—the separate flux bands carry separate frequencies of the lightning strike and they race around the earth in seconds and rebound. The high frequencies arrive first and then progressively lower frequencies. The radio signal sounds like a descending whistling tone and called a "whistler."

There are all kinds of sferics besides whistlers—auroral chorus, dawn chorus, tweeks, solar flares, hiss, saucer, AKR etc. In fact, whistlers are comparatively rare and some believe that they are only caused by upward-moving lightning, according to one source. I took that to mean a sprite so I included a wonderful site about sprites. It's interesting to look at photos of sprites and listen to the sound of a whistler at the same time. It's almost like a living creature with its own amazing cry. Eerie really.

Other planets, distant stars and galaxies make different sounds. In fact, radio is an excellent tool by which to map the universe and the first people to do it were radio engineers and enthusiasts rather than astronomers. You'll read about them in the links below. We've even tuned in on the Big Bang by picking up its primordial reverberations via radio.

21 Apr 07 - 11:11 AM (#2031970)
Subject: RE: Origins: Music of the Sphere
From: GUEST,282RA

The following is a Reuters articles I took from online a couple of years ago. I no longer have the link and it probably wouldn''t work anyway:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 — Big black holes sing bass. One particularly monstrous black hole has probably been humming B-flat for billions of years, but at a pitch no human could hear, let alone sing, astronomers said Tuesday. "The intensity of the sound is comparable to human speech," said Andrew Fabian of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge, England. But the pitch of the sound is about 57 octaves below the middle C at the middle of a standard piano keyboard.

This is far, far deeper than humans can hear, the researchers said, and they believe it is the deepest note ever detected in the universe.

The sound is emanating from the Perseus Cluster, a giant clump of galaxies 250 million light-years from Earth. A light-year is about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers), the distance light travels in a year.

Fabian and his colleagues used NASA's orbiting Chandra X-Ray Observatory to investigate X-rays coming from the cluster's heart. Researchers presumed that a supermassive black hole, with perhaps 2.5 billion times the mass of our sun, lay there, and the activity around the center bolstered this assumption.

21 Apr 07 - 11:17 AM (#2031976)
Subject: RE: Origins: Music of the Sphere
From: GUEST,282RA

In Greek mythology, the Fates produced the 5 notes or vowels of the lyre but Apollo added 2 more to make a diatonic scale. Pythagoras (whose name means "Apollo speaking") was said to have added an 8th, which completes the octave. The Greeks did not use our 12-tone equal-tempered (or 12-TET) scale of today. A Chinese musicologist of the 16th century, Zhu Zaiyu, first calculated the value of an equal-tempered half-step to be the 12th root of 2 or about 1.0595. Shockingly enough, the name of Apollo in Greek, Apollon, adds up in Greek isosephia (where every letter in the alphabet has a corresponding number) to 1061. One of his titles, Pythias, adds up to 1059. And Apollo, let us remember, was the god of music.

Some might determine that the Greeks must have known the about 12-TET since that seems far too close to be coincidence, yet in the 19th century, a Western musicologist developed a system that enabled values between two intervals to be converted into a linear scale for comparison. This was useful because, in the Pythagorean scale (the actual ratios with no tempering), the interval ratios are not intuitive. The difference between the interval called a tritone (6 half-steps) and a perfect 5th is only a single half-step but it is hard to know that simply by comparing their ratios—729/512 (about 1.42383) to 3/2. So a linear scale was developed to illustrate this. It utilizes the following formula:

1200 log2 a/b, where a/b represents the two ratios being compared. Hence:

1200 log2 1.5/1.42383 or 1200 x log2 1.053496555 = 90 and the units used here are called "cents." So a half-step in the linear system is 90 cents (but is often rounded off to 100 cents). We can also use a single ratio instead comparing two. A whole step, for example, equals 204 cents (1200 x log2 9/8 but is rounded off to 200 cents). The octave is exactly 1200 cents.

Oddly, a full Pythagorean octave is 531441/262144 which converted into cents is 23.46 or thereabouts. So we see how far the octave drifts from say C to C' without tempering but what is astonishing is that 23.46 is extremely close to the actual tilt of the earth on its axis! The tilt is responsible for our zodiac. So the octave is a cycle that is off by 23.46 cents and the earth is a sphere off its rotational axis by about 23.5 degrees.

Coincidence? Hell, I don't know!

21 Apr 07 - 11:35 AM (#2031986)
Subject: RE: Origins: Music of the Sphere
From: Stringsinger

Shakespeare was one of the first to comment on the music of the orbs.


21 Apr 07 - 11:43 AM (#2031991)
Subject: RE: Origins: Music of the Sphere
From: GUEST,282RA

Actually, the music of the spheres was a well known concept in Shakespeare's day. The ancient Greeks also believed in it. It was dismissed in the age of science as rank superstition. But now with new discoveries in astronomy as well as the emergence of string theory, we seem to be rediscovering some kind of ancient knowledge.

21 Apr 07 - 05:46 PM (#2032214)
Subject: RE: Origins: Music of the Sphere
From: Slag

The ancient term for the sky and especially the night sky was "firmament". Heaven was the fixed dome high over head. Towers and mountains were considered holy places as they were closer to heaven. To encounter a "God" almost always meant certain death unless you were somehow "chosen". A holy man or a priest could ascend and intercede for the ordinary mortals.

The stars were thought to be holes or windows in the great dome in some cultures and the great light of the deities showed through the holes. This was also where clouds, rain and snow and other atmospheric phenomena poured out from their treasuries beyond.

Because there were seven heavenly objects which "wandered" the skies each of these objects (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) was embedded in a pure crystalline dome which nested one inside the other. The word planet means "wanderer" . Think of planetary gears in a rear end! When a person rubs his finger over the edge of a crystal glass it emits a tone. Just so, the ancients believed that as the crystal domes rubbed passed each other they emitted heavenly tones that only the Gods could hear: the Music of the Spheres. This is the main reason why the number seven was considered to be the perfect number and why the seven tone scales was a reflection of the heavenly music. It also explains the concept of the seven heavens as each sphere or dome was a heavenly domain.

22 Apr 07 - 01:16 PM (#2032686)
Subject: RE: Origins: Music of the Sphere
From: GUEST,282RA

>>The ancient term for the sky and especially the night sky was "firmament". Heaven was the fixed dome high over head.<<

The Hebrew word translated as firmament means "bowl."

>>The stars were thought to be holes or windows in the great dome in some cultures and the great light of the deities showed through the holes. This was also where clouds, rain and snow and other atmospheric phenomena poured out from their treasuries beyond.<<

Genesis 7:11 describes the flood as being caused by "fountains of the deep" being broken and the "windows of heaven" being opened.