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Sounds of Space

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Oliver Normand.

Our planet naturally produces a variety of radio emissions, generated by lightning activity and geomagnetic storms driven by the Sun. These natural radio waves are at the lower end of the radio spectrum in the audio-frequency range, so-called because they have the same frequencies as audible sound waves. We use a Very Low Frequency Receiver, located at Halley Research Station in Antarctica, to record these emissions. Halley is a great location to detect these waves because it is magnetically connected to the outer radiation belt where some of the signals are generated and is electromagnetically “quiet”, being far from man-made sources. At the British Antarctic Survey, we use this radio wave data primarily to investigate the science of space weather storms, to help us understand the impact of space weather on the Earth-Climate system, and for lightning detection. As a remarkable spin-off, conversion to sound reveals a series of weird and wonderful noises, known as the ‘sounds of space’. In this presentation, we will explore the amazing variety of natural ‘sounds’ detected at Halley, Antarctica and then embark on a sound-led, data-driven journey from Earth-orbit to beyond the galaxy! I will then describe how these remarkable ‘sounds’ have been used in art-science collaborations to create performances, new music, and short films. Finally, I will show how the recordings from Halley have been used to enhance the exploration gameplay in the space simulation video game Elite Dangerous.

For further information visit our ‘sounds of space’ web page ( or read my cover article, entitled ‘turning the sounds of space into art’ ( in the April 2019 issue of Astronomy and Geophysics.

Dr Nigel Meredith is a space weather research scientist at British Antarctic Survey. He uses satellite data to develop global models of plasma waves in near Earth space for input into radiation belt codes and, ultimately, to forecast space weather. He is also interested in extreme space weather and has recently applied extreme value analysis to long-term satellite datasets to determine the 1 in 10, 1 in 50 and 1 in 100 year space weather events. This is important for assessing the impact of extreme events on the world’s satellite fleet. He enjoys exploring how to make scientific data more accessible and is currently involved in an art-science collaboration, ‘sounds of space’. He has published 111 papers in peer-reviewed journals covering a wide range of topics in space plasma physics.

The talk will be at the usual location of the Wolfson lecture theatre in the Department of Chemistry, shown on the map here:,0.125487,19,52.197816,0.125093

Tickets are £2 or free for members. Annual membership (£7) and life membership (£12) can also be purchased at the event – cash or card. The talk will be followed by refreshments outside the lecture theatre.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Astronomical Society (CUAS) series.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Astronomical Society (CUAS) series.

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