“Immense coils of hot, electrified gas in the Sun’s atmosphere behave like a musical instrument,” the BBC reported yesterday.
Even better, these “‘coronal loops’ carry acoustic waves in much the same way that sound is carried through a pipe organ.” In the process, each micro-flare – released by coronal looping and fueled by “the energy equivalent to millions of hydrogen bombs” – sends “immensely powerful acoustic waves hurtling through the loops at tens of kilometres per second, creating cosmic ‘organ music’.”
Mixing our musical metaphors here, the sonic effect is then compared to plucking a guitar string – but, judging from this audio excerpt, it sounds more like the rolling percussion of an orchestra being tuned.
Of course, solar sounds have been featured on BLDGBLOG before; in Podcasting the sun, for instance, we looked into whether the sun is “ringing like a bell” or “clapping,” and the answer seems to be both – only adding to the sun’s repertoire of instrumental metaphors.
I would even postulate, given the evidence, that we can only understand the sun through metaphors – comparing it to scientific models, hydrogen bombs, musical instruments, gods and goddesses, etc. – which, as it happens, is the subject of a short essay by Jacques Derrida called “Ellipsis of the Sun” (though I think Paul de Man also has an essay about this – I just didn’t bring any de Man books with me to LA…).
In any case, I was actually reminded of the “sea organ” in Zadar, Croatia, when I first heard of the sun’s coronal symphonies.
“Spring 2005 saw Zadar gain something absolutely unique,” we read; that “something” was “the world’s first pipe organ that’s played by the sea.”
[Images: The Zadar sea organ, from this PDF].
The sea organ is appropriately named, then, as the natural motion of the sea “pushes air through” 35 pipes on the coastal edge of the city; at that point, “depending on the size and velocity of the wave,” the residents of Zadar can sit back and listen as “chords are played.”
So could you attach an organ like that to the sun…? That would play continuous solar music and sidereal sounds, reverberating over continents, everyday?
A kind of sky piano that rips and roars and shines atonally in chords across the Earth’s magnetosphere? And if you stood at the edge of an Alaskan forest, with your antenna pointed up into the sky, headphones on, tuned into that solar presence, entranced, would you hear this? Thus literalizing the BBC’s metaphor?
If so, would Jacques Derrida be proud?
(Note: More sunscapes at Pruned. Zadar sea organ found via the Kircher Society. Ethereal piano MP3, linked at the end of this post, by Myke Weiskopf and his newly revived audio resource ShortWaveMusic).