Can you hear a meteor? © Getty Images

Can you hear a meteor?

Meteors are able to create sound waves. As they tear their way through the atmosphere they can create a sonic boom in the same way a fast-moving aeroplane does.

Asked by: Harry McClure, Barnstaple

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Meteors are able to create sound waves. As they tear their way through the atmosphere they can create a sonic boom in the same way a fast-moving aeroplane does. However, since meteors are generally 100km or more in altitude, and sound travels much more slowly than light, such sonic booms would not be heard until many minutes after the meteor appeared to viewers on Earth. Furthermore, the sound may not be loud enough to be heard at all.

Some people claim to have heard hissing or buzzing noises simultaneously with seeing a meteor. These may be caused by the very low frequency radio waves that are generated by meteors, which will arrive at the same time as the observer sees the meteor passing overhead. It has been demonstrated that these waves can cause glasses, plant foliage, pine needles and even hair to vibrate. This goes some way to explaining the hissing noises.


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