On Christmas Night 2016, I was standing beneath an intense display of auroras in Abisko, Sweden, when I heard something that sounded like Star Wars blasters. Other bystanders heard it, too. I rushed closer to the power lines and was able to record a sample using my iPhone.Lapland tour guide and photographer Oliver Wright was enjoying a natural Christmas lights display in the sky when the sounds hit his ears. He recognized them because he’s heard them three times before. As in the past, Wright found that the sounds intensified when the aurora lights brightened and were picked up by the power lines.
The sounds grew louder as I approached the power lines, and fainter as I moved away.Northern lights experts say the sounds Wright and others heard started with a solar flare that hit the Earth very close to the winter solstice and is expected to blast the planet and create geomagnetic storms into the new year. Those storms were intense over Abisko on Christmas night, creating the aurora they were watching. Did it create the sounds too? While some scientists doubt the existence of so-called aurora sounds, others believe those who report strange noises such as crackling, hissing or clapping. One theory is that strong geomagnetic storms can break down the separation of positive and negative ions in the atmosphere, causing layers in it to clap together.
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