While I'm busy building an instrument to convert the ionosphere to music, this NASA group has sonified the Sun

Astronomers at Univ. of Sheffield "found that huge magnetic loops that have been observed coiling away from the outer layer of the sun's atmosphere, known as coronal loops, vibrate like strings on a musical instrument. [...] Using satellite images of these loops, which can be over 60,000 miles long, the scientists were able to recreate the sound by turning the visible vibrations into noises and speeding up the frequency so it is audible to the human ear. "

"It is a sort of music as it has harmonics."

Sample this 18 second flare music:

This is more than an stunt, though. The use of music to show long and short frequency variations is a valid exploration tool. In this case, they are measuring actual harmonic resonances in the sun, and translating them (downshifting them) to the audible range.

In God Particle Signal is Simulated as Sound, potential collisions at the LHC are mapped to sound so that significant detections can be instantly heard.  'Their aim is to develop a means for physicists at Cern to "listen to the data" and pick out the Higgs particle if and when they finally detect it'.

One mundane use of sonification is a computer system administrator tool, such as Peep (the network auralizer), that convert computer operations to sounds. If everything is running normally, you get background music. If the music speeds up or you hear wacky arhythmic stuff, that warns the sys admin there's a problem. By playing the real time computer status as music, the sys admin is freed to do work tasks, while simultaneously having an ear out for trouble.

By analogy, it's how we can tell if your car engine is having trouble, or how any machine engineer uses listening to keep aware of catastrophe. Normally you don't actively perceive your car engine other than "it's humming along"-- but if it starts chunking or wheezing or popping, your brain catches that sound and says "hey, pay attention", and you're instantly aware that trouble is there. Same thing here with the Sun.

A big advantage of these continual sonification representations is that they let us explore the cosmos over long time scales intuitively. It's hard to stare at a movie of the Sun for a day, tracking variations and hoping to catch odd events. But if you have the Sun's "soundtrack" playing in the background, you can do other stuff-- yet be jolted into awareness as soon as your ears pick up an anomaly.

I can imagine someone making a near-realtime sonification of solar data that is music-like for the quiet Sun, but gives us audible notice of higher activity, flares, and CMEs. Not like an alarm or claxon, but as a musical crescendo or swell that says, hey, not to panic but there may be some activity. Keep listening.

Using all your senses-- it isn't just a science gimmick, it's a good idea.

Tuesdays at The Satellite Diaries and Friday at The Daytime Astronomer (twitter @skyday)