8A70.35 - Lightening Whistlers

Photo Credit - http://vlf.stanford.edu/research/automated-detection-whistlers-taranis-spacecraft
Code Number:
Demo Title:
Lightening Whistlers
Plasma Physics
Area of Study:
Solar and Galactic Astronomy
Video: Lightening Whistlers recorded by the P.D.P. (Plasma Diagnostics Package), Space Phone or Slinky.

See also 3B25.67 in Oscillations/Acoustics and 3B25.67 in Astronomy.

The P.D.P. was built at the U of Iowa and was used to measure plasmas around the orbiting space shuttle.  While in orbit the shuttle and P.D.P. flew over a thunderstorm that was taking place on the earth's surface and 'Whistlers' were recorded.  I have copies of this in my video library but there is also a copy with the video machine that is on 3rd or 5th floor (Spacecraft Engineering).

The "Space Phone" allows you to hear whistlers as the speed of sound transmission through the spring is wavelength dependant.  A long Slinky can also be used for this demonstration.

  • James Szeszol, Scott Welty, Theodore Ansbacher, "Mystery Physics", TPT, Vol. 27, # 3, March 1989, p. 200. 
  • W.R. From and J. Higbie, "Acoustic Chirps in the Snow", TPT, Vol. 21, # 9, Dec. 1983, p. 605.
  • Edwin A. Karlow, "Culvert Whistlers: Harmonizing the Wave and Ray Models", AJP, Vol. 68, # 6, June 2000, p. 531.
  • Frank S. Crawford, "Erratum : "Slinky Whistlers", AJP, Vol. 55, # 10, Oct. 1987, p. 952.
  • Frank S. Crawford, "Slinky Whistlers", AJP, Vol. 55, # 2, Feb. 1987, p. 130.
  • Stephen G. Benka, "Imaging Earth's Plasma Ducts", Physics Today, Aug. 2015, p. 23.
  • "Physics Update - Simulating Whistler Turbulence", Physics Today, November 2008, p. 20.
  • 6.31:  Jearl Walker, "Whistlers", The Flying Circus of Physics with Answers.
  • "Scientist's Space Sounds Set To Music",  Associated Press,  July 3, 2002.
  • Tom Petruzzellis, "ELF/VLF Radio or Nature's Radio", Electronic Sensors for the Evil Genius, p. 227.

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