Scientists have captured sounds from the skies at 13 miles above the Earth’s surface using microphones attached to solar-powered balloons.
The recordings include thunder, wind turbines, ocean waves, and an enigmatic low-frequency “infrasound” vibration with an unknown origin.
By listening to the stratosphere, researchers can detect disturbances caused by human activities and natural processes on the Earth’s surface.
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This method provides insights into events such as industrial explosions or volcanic eruptions that may go unnoticed from the ground.
The latest findings will be presented by Daniel Bowman, a principal scientist at Sandia National Laboratory, at a conference in Chicago.
Bowman and his team have been conducting these recordings for years by launching inexpensive balloons in the American Southwest.
The balloons are made of plastic bags with charcoal dust inside, utilizing passive solar power to ascend to the sky.
Each balloon costs around $50 to construct and can be built on a basketball court. The researchers specifically focus on infrasound waves, which are low-frequency vibrations beyond the range of human hearing.
Infrasound waves can travel long distances across the Earth’s surface and upward into the skies, allowing detection of disruptive events over vast ranges.
The balloon flights have revealed both identifiable sounds and unexplained rumblings in the stratosphere.
The origins of these mysterious signals are unknown and require further investigation.
Future balloon flights aim to unravel the source of these peculiar signals, expanding our understanding of Earth and potentially other planets.
The research has implications for monitoring remote areas of the Earth, including explosive events and volcanic eruptions, and may also contribute to balloon-based infrasound seismology on Venus.