The Comet. It Sings!

Have you heard the comet singing? From the Rosetta Blog this press release:

Rosetta’s Plasma Consortium (RPC) has uncovered a mysterious ‘song’ that Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is singing into space. RPC principal investigator Karl-Heinz Glaßmeier, head of Space Physics and Space Sensorics at the Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany, tells us more.

Artist's impression of the 'singing comet' 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam
RPC consists of five instruments on the Rosetta orbiter that provide a wide variety of complementary information about the plasma environment surrounding Comet 67P/C-G. (Reminder: Plasma is the fourth state of matter, an electrically conductive gas that can carry magnetic fields and electrical currents.)

The instruments are designed to study a number of phenomena, including: the interaction of 67P/C-G with the solar wind, a continuous stream of plasma emitted by the Sun; changes of activity on the comet; the structure and dynamics of the comet’s tenuous plasma ‘atmosphere’, known as the coma; and the physical properties of the cometary nucleus and surface.

But one observation has taken the RPC scientists somewhat by surprise. The comet seems to be emitting a ‘song’ in the form of oscillations in the magnetic field in the comet’s environment. It is being sung at 40-50 millihertz, far below human hearing, which typically picks up sound between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. To make the music audible to the human ear, the frequencies have been increased by a factor of about 10,000.

The music was heard clearly by the magnetometer experiment (RPC-Mag) for the first time in August, when Rosetta drew to within 100 km of 67P/C-G. The scientists think it must be produced in some way by the activity of the comet, as it releases neutral particles into space where they become electrically charged due to a process called ionisation. But the precise physical mechanism behind the oscillations remains a mystery.

“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,” says Karl-Heinz.

RPC may also be able to help in tracking Philae’s descent to the surface of 67P/C-G on 12 November, in tandem with the lander’s on-board magnetometer, ROMAP .

The contributing institutions to these instruments are:
RPC: Institutet för rymdfysik (IRF), Uppsala, Sweden; Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), USA; Institut für Geophysik und Extraterrestrische Physik, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany; Laboratoire de physique et chimie de l'environnement et de l'espace (LPC2E), Université d'Orléans, France, and Imperial College London, United Kingdom.
RPC-Mag: Institut für Geophysik und Extraterrestrische Physik, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany; Imperial College London, United Kingdom; Space Research Institute Graz, Austria

And here is the song:

And here is the alternatepredator-4 hypothesis for what is making this sound:


More like this

It's moaning after being stung by a Philae... Let's hope it can't SWOT it!

(Inside pun: SWOT = Surface Water Ocean Topography orbiter.)

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 12 Nov 2014 #permalink

following American Bandstand rating system I will give the song a -10 rating. You can't dance to it. There is no hook whatsoever. I do not want to meat the "intelligence" that created this tune :-(

By Chris Heinz (not verified) on 12 Nov 2014 #permalink

Chris, depending on how old you are, just wait several decades... You will !

(Me, I hope I never meet "Mr Alternate"...)

Greg, you're a bird guy -- what bird call does that sound like??

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 12 Nov 2014 #permalink

It's auditioning for that global warming choir now that Philea deflected it this way. Also, it's having some buffer underrun problems with the live feed.

Thanks, GL - first I knew of this.

Without doubt it merits the Full Judy: Wow!, Just Wow!

The "Full Judy" — as in "Judy, Judy, Judy"?

(You have to be a Cary Grant fan to appreciate that.)

So, in 1960 Murray Leinster gave us The Wailing Asteroid and now we get the singing comet. What's next?

By Christopher Winter (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

I wonder if Mr. Alternate knows any Klingon opera.

By Christopher Winter (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink