Did I really hear a meteor? (Intermediate)

Upon watching the sky and on several occasions, I have noticed a sound such as hissing that seems to have come from all around me, and occurs when I see meteors. My last observation with this kind of phenomena was in November 2002 I was looking straight up and the split-second before a meteorite came into view. The sound was all around me (hissing) and lasted until the meteor burned out. This is a strange phenomenon that I have witnessed on several occasions. Is there really a sound associated with meteors?

You are not alone in "hearing" a meteor! Although it stumped scientists for many years, many now believe that radio waves emitted by the meteorite at the same time that the visible light is emitted can travel to Earth and cause nearby objects to vibrate and cause a hissing kind of sound. This phenomenon has been called the "electrophonic effect", and is though to explain the many reports of hissing sounds simultaneously accompanying observed meteors.

Look here for more details on the electrophonic effect.


Updated on January 26, 2019

About the Author

Kristine Spekkens

Kristine Spekkens

Kristine studies the dynamics of galaxies and what they can teach us about dark matter in the universe. She got her Ph.D from Cornell in August 2005, was a Jansky post-doctoral fellow at Rutgers University from 2005-2008, and is now a faculty member at the Royal Military College of Canada and at Queen's University.

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