Lonely Planet Writer

Did a photographer in Sweden capture the sound of the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights are certainly a thing to behold, but what about to hear? A photographer in Sweden posted an audio clip of strange sounds – likened to a blaster from Star Wars – that he heard while watching the lights.

Amazing Northern Lights (Aurora borealis) display over pine trees in night skies over Sweden.
Amazing Northern Lights (Aurora borealis) display over pine trees in night skies over Sweden. Image by David Clapp/ robertharding /Getty Images

Aurora borealis draws travellers from around the world north to places in Scandinavia, Canada, Scotland and more, hoping for a glimpse of glittering colours in the night sky.

Oliver Wright, who works as a photography guide in Sweden with Lights over Lapland, recently wrote on his website about hearing a strange noise while watching the lights. In a blog post, he explains that while he is not saying aurora borealis actually makes a noise, he has heard “weird noises” coming from electric cables during periods of strong solar wind. At Christmas, he heard the noise and went closer to the cables to record it on his iPhone, noting that the sound is akin to a Star Wars blaster.  

Having captured the sounds, he submitted the recording to Dr Tony Phillips, who operates Spaceweather.com. Phillips weighed in on the issue in a post on his website, noting that in the past there have been some sounds, potentially caused by aurora borealis, recorded, but the idea is controversial among experts.  

He says the noise that Wright recorded could be due to “electrophonic transduction”, according to Phillips, which is the “conversion of electromagnetic energy into mechanical motion”, like magnetic fields causing vibrations in the power lines. And while research into sounds caused by the Northern Lights is sure to continue, so will the number of people heading to areas where they can catch a glimpse.