62 Degrees North

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The sound of the Northern Lights

Northern LightsFor several hundred years, people in Northern Norway have claimed that the Northern Lights make sound. Now researchers in Tromsø will try to catch its tune.  "I am very fascinated by all the myths surrounding the Northern Lights, especially in the Sami culture. Several people from the older generations have claimed that they have heard the Northern Lights," says Unni Pia Løvhaug, professor of space science at the Univerity of Tromsø.

One of the words for Northern Lights in Sami is guovssahasat, which means the light you can hear. 

Still, several scientific circles have rejected the theory that the Northern Lights make any sound at all. The Danish researcher Sophus Tromholt concluded that it would be impossible to hear the Northern Lights in Norway because because the air is too thin for soundwaves to spread at an altitude of 120 kilometers. 

However, Løvland has also come across research that shows how meteor showers and northern lights can create Very Low Frequency (FLV) radio waves in the atmosphere that can be translated to sound.

Now she is eager to try to catch the sound. Next winter she hopes to travel somewhere desolate where she will be able to hear it, far away from power poles and electrical devices that may transmit similar sound signals. 

"No wonder the Northern Lights were perceived to be mysterical. There are researchers now who think that VLF-waves can even make objects move, such as thin items like aluminum foil, thin and dry hair, or eyeglass frames," Løvhaug explains. 



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