Can you tell me a little more about sounds on the Sun?

(by Todd Hoeksema)

There are lots of sound waves inside the Sun. The Sun's atmosphere is very turbulent, so sound waves of many frequencies are being formed all the time. It's similar in some ways to the roar you hear from the waves that crash on the beach, but with a much deeper pitch.

The interesting thing about sound waves on the Sun is that some of them resonate, like a huge organ pipe or like when you blow across the top of an empty soda bottle. The pitch of the resonance depends on the size and shape of the bottle, as well as on the characteristics of the air.

The sounds that resonate inside the Sun tell us about what it's like inside. As you can image, the Sun is really big, so the some of the waves are big too and have very long wavelengths and low frequencies. It's only the big slow ones that we can observe from Earth.

People's voices vibrate about a thousand times per second. The biggest, deepest organ pipes are about 32' long and your ear can hear them rumble at frequencies less than a hundred cycles per second. The waves on the Sun have one cycle every 5 minutes or so. We have to speed them up a whole lot to be able to hear them at all, even as deep rumbles.

Check out our 'Singing Sun' activity to learn a little more about it.

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Special Thanks to T. Hoeksema