Scientists capture the very weird sound of Earth's magnetic field

Watch: The sound of Earth's magnetic field

Earth’s magnetic field keeps us alive by protecting the inhabitants of our planet from cosmic radiation – but it sounds terrifying.

Scientists at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) have taken magnetic signals measured by the European Space Agency's (ESA) Swarm satellite mission and converted them into sound.

And it's very unnerving.

The submarine-like creaks were captured by orbiting satellites that measure Earth's magnetic field, a ‘bubble’ that keeps us safe from cosmic radiation and charged particles carried by powerful winds flowing from the Sun.

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Launched in 2013, ESA's trio of Swarm satellites are being used to understand exactly how our magnetic field is generated.

They measure precisely the magnetic signals that stem not only from Earth's core, but also from the mantle, crust and oceans, as well as from the ionosphere and magnetosphere.

Swarm is also leading to new insights into weather in space.

Klaus Nielsen, a musician and project supporter from DTU, said: "The team used data from ESA's Swarm satellites, as well as other sources, and used these magnetic signals to manipulate and control a sonic representation of the core field.

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"The project has certainly been a rewarding exercise in bringing art and science together."

The audio clip represents the magnetic field generated by Earth's core and its interaction with a solar storm.

When particles from the Sun collide with atoms and molecules – mainly oxygen and nitrogen – in the upper atmosphere, some of the energy in the collisions is transformed into the green-blue light that is typical of the aurora borealis that can sometimes be seen from high-northern latitudes.

The Earth's magnetic field protects us from solar wind and cosmic radiation (ESA)
The Earth's magnetic field protects us from solar wind and cosmic radiation (ESA) (ESA)

While the aurora borealis – or Northern Lights – offers a visual display of charged particles from the Sun interacting with Earth's magnetic field, actually being able to hear the magnetic field generated by Earth or its interaction with solar winds is another matter.

Our magnetic field is largely generated by an ocean of superheated, swirling liquid iron that makes up the outer core thousands of miles beneath our feet.

Acting as a spinning conductor in a bicycle dynamo, it creates electrical currents, which in turn generate our continuously changing electromagnetic field.