Meteors, Earthquakes & UFO’s

The areas discussed on this page are potential areas of VLF emissions. There is fairly good documentation of VLF signals from meteors entering the atmosphere, but the other two areas are highly speculative.

It is important that any data gathered be verified and collaborated by other listeners and be subject to peer review, like any other scientific observation. It is important not to jump to conclusions on the basis of limited data.


The classic paper on VLF emissions from meteors is the study made in the Negev desert in Israel by Colin Price and Moshe Blum from the Department of Geophysics and Planetary Science at Tel Aviv University.

During the 1999 Leonid Meteor shower, they made VLF measurements from the Negev Desert in Israel, which was fortunately well positioned for the peak of that meteor shower. The receiver used two orthogonal loop antennas and was normally used for lightning research.

They detected electromagnetic pulses at the rate of 15,000 per hour, which is at least 50 times the visual rate for meteor observations! They VLF pulses from the meteors were different from lightning pulses in the following ways:

A lightning pulse from distant lightning lasts about 1 ms. and has its peak energy in the 6Khz. range. An electromagnetic pulse from a meteor lasts longer, about 10 ms., has its peak energy in the 1 kHz range, and is about 20 db. quieter than a lightning pulse. I would guess that audibly, meteors sound like light sferics. Maybe we have been hearing them all along and didn’t know it.

This of course, is one recording of one event, but recordings were made on nights when there was no meteor shower as a control and to differentiate between meteor radiations and lightning. The authors state that there is no theory that describes VLF emissions for small meteors and that more study is needed.


Researchers for years have been trying to use VLF signals as a predictor of Earthquakes. This is a difficult area of research as no one knows when an earthquake is coming, and thus continuous VLF monitoring is necessary. So far, nothing conclusive.


This needs to be prefaced by saying that UFOs do not imply extra-terrestrial spacecraft, but a sighting in the sky that has no reasonable explanation. Actually, I like the British term better, UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon). This term does not imply that the observed phenomenon is either an object, or that it is “flying” and is thus more inclusive.

After a series of “Freedom of Information” requests, the British Ministry of Defense (MOD) released the report entitled “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the UK Air Defense Region” (the “Condign Report”) in May 2006. The Condign Report states that it is the “first UK detailed and authoritative report [on UAPs] which has been produced since the late 1950s”

I have believed for a long time that it would be worthwhile to try and coordinate the unexplained UFO reports with geomagnetic activity. It always seemed likely that there should be some correlation. But the British found none. What they did find, however, was a correlation between UAPs and meteors. Here is an excerpt of paragraphs 11 & 12 of the executive summary of the report.

“Aerial phenomena of the type consistent with those reported as UAP, and with exceptional characteristics certainly exist – but the available evidence suggests that apart from those which can be more easily and satisfactorily explained, they are comprised of several types of rarely encounteredĀ  natural events within the atmosphere and ionosphere. Some of these are still barely understood. It is clear that they have been reported as exceptional occurrences throughout recorded history, using the language of the times … ”

“Considerable evidence exists to support the thesis that the events are almost certainly attributable to physical, electrical and magnetic phenomena in the atmosphere, mesosphere and ionosphere. They appear to originate due to more than one set of weather and electrically-charged conditions and are observed so infrequently as to make them unique to the majority of observer. There seems to be a strong possibility that at least some of the events may be triggered by meteor re-entry, the meteors neither burning up completely, nor impacting as meteorites, but forming buoyant plasmas. The conditions and method of formation of the electrically-charged plasmas and the scientific rationale for sustaining them for significant periods is incomplete or not fully understood.”

When we see a meteor streak across the sky we are not seeing the flames as it burns up. The dust particles that become a meteor shower impinge upon the atmosphere at a speed of several tens of km per second. As the dust particles collide with the atoms in the atmosphere, tremendous energy is released and some of the dust and the air molecules form plasma. The light that we see as a meteor trail is this glowing plasma. Although this was a mystery for a long time, it was finally discovered through spectral observation.

Currently, much study is being conducted on “dusty plasma bubbles.” Plasma bubbles are regions of low plasma density that move through the ionosphere like bubbles in a glass of soda. Search for “dusty plasma bubbles” on Google and you’ll find lots of references.

This report was not exactly received enthusiastically by the UFO community, as it found no evidence that UAPs were extra-terrestrial, and for that same reason, didn’t make a big hit in the mainstream media. Nevertheless, it should be received as significant news for those of us who “spend our time listening to static”.

A healthy skepticism is always good – a closed mind isn’t. Scientific arrogance is never an asset.

I’m only touching on the highlights of the report here; it goes into much greater depth and refers to other research that has been done on dusty plasmas. Much of it is speculative, but it gives us another trail to follow and either prove or disprove by scientific research.

Do these phenomena have a Natural Radio signature? Perhaps. A few paragraphs above, we mentioned a study by Price and Blum that heard sferic-like signals from meteors.

What would a Natural Radio signal from a plasma ball sound like? Since there hasn’t been any research done I’m speculating here, but there is no Whistler Propagation Mode in the atmosphere so probably not very musical. A plasma ball probably releases a lot less energy than a lightning bolt, so don’t expect a very strong signal. In all likelihood it would sound like any other electrical discharge, but under spectral analysis, it might have a unique signature.

Of course we’ll never know for sure without scientific study. Here’s a place for the amateur scientist. We don’t have to worry about professional reputations or funding.(We fund ourselves.)

The common luminous phenomenon have pretty much all been discovered. We know about lightning, St. Elmo’s Fire, the Aurora Borealis, Red Sprites and Blue Jets. Now is the time to start looking for the more elusive ones. When you look at all the different electrical currents circulating above the earth and the complexity of the atmosphere, ionosphere and magnetosphere and earth-sun interactions, it’s likely that there are a few luminous phenomena that we haven’t really tied down yet.

Page created by Mark Karney