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Hear the Sun Sing Have you ever wondered what the Sun would sound like if you could hear it? Our Sun lies 93,000,000 miles away, surrounded by the vacuum of space. Sound won't travel through space, of course. But with the right instrument, scientists can "hear" pulsations from the Sun. The entire Sun vibrates from a complex pattern of acoustical waves, much like a bell. If your eyes were sharp enough, you could see a bell's surface jiggle in complex patterns as the waves bounced around within it. Likewise, astronomers at Stanford University can record acoustical pressure waves in the Sun by carefully tracking movements on the Sun's surface. To do this, they use an instrument called a Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI), mounted on the SOHO spacecraft, circling the Sun 1,000,000 miles from Earth. The Sun's acoustical waves bounce from one side of the Sun to the other in about two hours, causing the Sun's surface to oscillate, or wiggle up and down. Because these sound waves travel underneath the Sun's surface, they are influenced by conditions inside the Sun. So scientists can use the oscillations to learn more about how the structure of the Sun's interior shapes its surface. The Sun's sound waves are normally at frequencies too low for the human ear to hear. To be able to hear them, the scientists sped up the waves 42,000 times -- and compressed 40 days of vibrations into a few seconds. What you'll be hearing are just a few dozen of the 10 million resonances echoing inside the Sun.
The Sun’s boiling and bubbling gases create a noisy throbbing, and the resulting sound waves are being used by scientists to study the interior of the star. But the sound waves are trapped inside the Sun, according to NASA scientists, and while they become visible as waves when they reach the surface, their frequencies are mostly too low to be heard by human ears — if a human were to be put in the unlikely position of being there. The study of the Sun using sound waves is called helioseismology, because it is much like the use of seismic waves to study the interior of the Earth. The waves were discovered half a century ago. Because space is a vacuum, the sound waves cannot not leave the Sun to be “heard” elsewhere. But scientists at Stanford University have condensed days of instrument readings of solar vibrations and speeded them up, posting them on a Web site, to let earthlings get an idea of one strand of the Sun’s bell-like or drumlike resonances. The instrument used to collect the sounds is the Michelson Doppler Imager, on board SOHO, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory spacecraft, which was launched into orbit in 1995.