24 August 2019
The singing comet. Photo: European Space Agency
The singing comet. Photo: European Space Agency

Song of a comet

Scientists were surprised to hear a “song” coming from the comet on which a European probe has just landed.

Hundreds of thousands of social media users have now listened to the sound from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the BBC reported.

“Maybe it’s the sound of an alien shouting, ‘Help me, I’m trapped inside a comet’,” Alan Hayward commented on SoundCloud.

The European Space Agency posted on the audio sharing network the sound being captured by the probe’s mothership, the Rosetta.

“This is exciting, because it is completely new to us. We did not expect this, and we are still working to understand the physics of what is happening,” project investigator Karl-Heinz Glaßmeier, head of space physics and space sensorics at the Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany, said on the agency’s Rosetta blog.

“The comet seems to be emitting a ‘song’ in the form of oscillations in the magnetic field in the comet’s environment,” he wrote.

Because the sound is being made at frequencies far below the ability of humans to hear, the frequencies have been increased about 10,000 times to make the “song” audible.

The scientists think it must be produced by the activity of the comet as it releases neutral particles into space, where they become electrically charged by a process called ionisation.

But the precise physical mechanism remains a mystery.

Comets are some of the oldest objects found in space. They date back to the formation of the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago.

Listen to the audio from the European Space Agency:

Do you think 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has a chance to break into the Top 40 music charts?

It might have to change its name to something less unwieldy, like Big Bang Baby.

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe