The Sound Of Solar Flares To Be Explored At London's Dana Centre

By Graham Spicer | 21 November 2006
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photo of the sun taken with special equipment showing the solar flares coming from it

Image from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft. Courtesy NASA/ESA

Visitors to a Science Museum event will be treated to a show of truly cosmic proportions – featuring the sights and sounds of solar flares.

Six space artists, musicians and scientists will discuss and explain how these sounds are captured and what we can learn from them at the Mixing With The Stars event on November 30 2006 at the museum’s Dana Centre.

The event celebrates NASA’s STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) mission, which launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on October 25 2006.

STEREO has launched two spacecraft to orbit the sun from opposite sides to gather data and create 3D images of coronal mass ejections, a form of solar flare that affect the solar wind and can cause magnetic storms on Earth.

photo of the sun taken with special equipment showing the solar flares coming from it in green

This was also taken from the SOHO spacecraft. Courtesy NASA/ESA

“The sun has inspired artists and scientists for thousands of years and the STEREO mission is sparking a new wave of interest,” said event organiser Holly Cave. “Anyone with an interest in music or science will be amazed to hear these sounds, see these images and find out how they can be manipulated.”

Semiconductor – artists Ruth Jarman and Joseph Gerhardt – were artists in residence at the Berkeley Space Sciences Lab (SSL), University of California, where they spent five months researching and developing new works with the scientists there.

They will be showing their resulting film, Brilliant Noise, a sound film of solar flares, and talking about how they made it. Audience members will even be able to make their own space music by manipulating the solar sounds on a computer.

photo of part of the sun taken with special equipment showing the solar flares coming from it

Solar flares captured by the Transition Region And Coronal Explorer (TRACE) spacecraft. Courtesy NASA/ESA

Artist Liliane Lijn, who also worked with SSL thanks to the Arts Council England International Artists Fellowship Scheme, will show how she makes art out of aerogel – the substance that astronauts use to catch space dust.

Chris Davis, who worked on the STEREO project’s imaging equipment, will reveal what equipment is needed for filming the sun and Don Kurtz, astrophysicist from the University of Central Lancashire, will explain what the sounds recorded from the sun actually mean.

The Dana Centre is run by the Science Museum, the British Association for the Advancement of Science and the European Dana Alliance for the Brain and aims to provide exciting, informative and innovative debates about contemporary science, technology and culture. Events there are for anyone aged 18. Mixing With The Stars is free, although places should be pre-booked – call 020 7942 4040 or email tickets@danacentre.org.uk.

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