The Electrophonic Meteor
In the late 1990's in the early morning hours, Lynn Carroll and I were
walking down the gravel road at the Oregon Star Party. It was another
outstanding night of excellent transparency. Out of nowhere, a burst of
light right in front of us - a face on meteor. At the exact same time,
I heard or felt a high pitched buzz or whine coming from inside my
head. I started to speak just as Lynn started to say something. He'd
heard it too. We chalked it up to the mysteries of the universe; but it
kept nagging at me. I posted my experience and after the usual litany
of dissing responses, one person said that we may have experienced an
electrophonic meteor. He asked if we were wearing glasses (no) or if
there were any metal objects nearby (we happened to be walking past the
large metal garbage bin!). Since then the phenomena has become
accepted, particularly after many observers heard sounds during
the Leonid meteor storm of 2001.
Meteors emit VLF (very low frequency) electro-magnetic waves traveling
at the speed of light; focusing them in front of the meteor's path. A
transducer like metal eyeglass frames or a nearby large metal object
can absorb these waves and vibrate in response, emitting acoustic waves.
Leonids from central Oregon Cascades, Nov 17 2001
Wow - Leonids beyond words!
Up to six meteors visible at any one time, on average a meteor per
second, half of the Leonids were magnitude zero or brighter. Did
not matter which direction one faced, meteors were dropping across the
sky. Every several minutes a Leonid would explode with a flash, as if
someone with a flash camera were taking pictures a few feet away.
Meteors were very fast, with blue tails, a couple of tails lasting up
to 30 minutes before disappearing. A few meteors burst, causing
sideways fragments to be cast off at 90 degrees. Display started
at 11pm Pacific Standard Time, held maximum activity from 1 am to
We observed from the top of McKenzie Pass at 5000 feet elevation.
The jet black sky and snow on the lava flows with the icy cold 35 mph
steady wind made for an experience beyond words.