On the night of November 11, 2014, ESA announced that the Rosetta spacecraft carrying the Philae lander had recorded a “song” emanating from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta’s Plasma Consortium – a suite of five instruments used to study 67P – detected the sound, which cannot be heard by the human ear at 40 to 50 millihertz (outside the range of human hearing).
According to ESA, Rosetta’s instruments first heard the odd sounds from the comet in August when the probe came within 62 miles (100 km) of the the comet. The sounds reappeared during recent maneuvers to bring Rosetta into position to release the Philae lander.
The comet song capture by Rosetta is produced by “oscillations in the magnetic field in the comet’s environment,” ESA officials said in a statement.
ESA scientists have been able to make the comet’s song audible by boosting its frequencies by a factor of 10,000.
Bottom line: Listen in on a mysterious sound produced by Rosetta’s comet. ESA says the comet song is due to “oscillations in the magnetic field in the comet’s environment.”
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.