Leonid Meteor Sounds
Witness Accounts. Nov. 18, 2001

On Nov. 18, 2001, a team of NASA scientists hosted a live show on NASA TV during the 2001 Leonid meteor shower. During the broadcast meteor watchers around the world shared their experiences live via email. Here are some of the reports that included electrophonic meteor sounds:

Dear SpaceWeather.com -- I saw spectacular Leonids last night, sitting in my backyard in San Francisco. In spite of the city lights, I saw several beautiful green and gold earthgrazers -- and one bright orange one. As Leo rose, the spray of meteors increased. One beauty was a bright white ball that skittered erratically across the atmosphere like a drop of water on a hot griddle, leaving a sparkling trail of bright turquoise.

The werdest think was that I am sure I could hear several of the meteors. Several times when a meteor a with persistent streamer seemed directly overhead, I heard a faint fizzing noise. How is that possible when the thing is hitting the edge of the atmosphere a couple of miles above my head? Even if there were some sort of meteor thunder, I wouldn't think it could reach my ears through the air until after the meteor was no longer visible. The first time it happened I thought I was making up my own sound effects, but after five or six repetitions, the sound was clearly very distant, from above, only with meteors that had sparkly persistent tails, and only when they were nearly directly overhead.

Well, some people hear auroras, so I hope I'm not going crazy!

Thank you, Karen Newcombe San Francisco  

Hi, I live in Seattle. During the Leonid Meteor Shower on Nov. 18th we saw a bright meteor pass by in the SE. It made a kind of swish noise as it passed by. This was around 2:18 am Pacific Time. Siavash Shiva, Seattle


Thanks for the NASA TV show. My daughter and I have been watching [the Leonids] from a great country location in Mooresboro, N.C. Man, it is really beautiful to see! It's 5:00 a.m. now [on Nov. 18th] and they are really getting heavy. Do meteors make noise ? We both have heard a crackling to hissing sound at times tonight.

Marvin Silvers, Mooresboro, N.C

I just walked outside at 4:46a.m. EST [on Nov. 18th] ...and it's actually loud. There's a solid stream of hissing... Is it possible to hear meteors?

Chris Hahn, Lawrence, MA

I was out an hour ago and am back in getting warm. When I was out I had my head back on the ground and heard the sizzling sound. My head was close to grass and leaves and I wear wireframe glasses as well. The sound was definitely simultaneous with the observation of a rather large streak.

Erich (first name only please), Troy, NY


I, too, heard a hissing sound from an earthgrazer I saw at around 12:45 a.m. CST. as it streaked approximately 25-30 degrees across the sky. I wondered how this was possible since the sound occurred simultaneously with the appearance of the earthgrazer. I am certain it was not my imagination.

Thank you for your coverage of the Leonids. Great job!

Jeff Tubbs, Oxford, MS

Hello, my name is Denise Cobb. I live in Batesville, Mississippi, which is 20 miles west of Oxford. At approximately 12:45 [local time on Nov. 18th] I saw a meteor go from East to West. It made a hissing sound. I haven't seen one as big since then.

This account comes from Garry Knipe, a 2001 Leonid watcher who had an extraordinary experience with an electrophonic Perseid meteor about 10 years ago.


Thanks for the nice article on meteoric sounds . I thought you might be interested in the following experience I had.

About 10 years ago, I was viewing the Perseid meteor shower at Lick Observatory in the mountains east of San Jose, California.

I forget the exact time, but it must have been around 2am when I saw a very bright Perseid shoot by overhead with a nice big trail. Simultaneously, I also heard and felt it!

At the time, I was standing about 4 feet away from the observatory dome.

I heard a fizzy/fuzzy staticy noise for about 1.5 seconds and I felt a strange electricy sort of rumble. Wow, what an eye opener. I just stood there for a while sort of shocked.

It was by far the largest meteor that I saw that night.

I strongly suspect that the effect was somehow magnified by my position relative to the large metallic dome. I was on the same side of the dome as the meteor which passed about 10 degrees below the zenith.

Whether the sheet metal of the dome actually vibrated at low frequency I can only guess. Whether I felt a static electric charge I'm not certain. But it sure seemed like I did.

I asked a few of my friends (located away from the dome) if they had heard or felt anything and they said no.

Anyway, I only "saw" the Leonids last week, but it was a fine show! Hope you all got to see (and hear?) them too.

Best Wishes, Garry Knipe