LISTEN: Audio of The Singing Comet

In yet another masterstroke of Western achievement, Rosetta, a robotic space probe built and launched by the European Space Agency to perform a detailed study of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, landed this week. The Rosetta was designed to analyze the chemical composition of the comet’s surface. The information collected might “reveal the organic molecules that came to Earth 4.5 billion years ago and led to the origin of life.”

Conducting such scientific studies is one of mankind’s great achievements. How exciting and magnificent. This used to be the stuff of American achievement, but Obama killed much of NASA’s space exploratory programs, and had NASA redirect its efforts to advancing the “scientific achievements” of the Muslim world. I imagine NASA scientists are still searching. Read: Obama’s Stone Age.

Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft has discovered something surprising and wonderful about the comet it’s orbiting: it makes an eerie noise.


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The European Space Agency robot’s instruments have detected a low-frequency, irregular sound emitted by oscillations in the comet’s magnetic field. Researchers have boosted the sound to within human hearing range and are calling it a “song.”

It is really thrilling.

But the mission has not been without its setbacks. The landing did not go smoothly. A harpoon system designed to anchor Philae to the surface did not fire, and the lander rebounded.

In the weak gravity of the comet, Philae’s bounce took nearly two hours to complete. It then performed a second bounce, this time of just six minutes long before coming to rest. (….more)

Subsequent problems have developed:

The audacious Rosetta mission’s attempt to land on a comet and send back scientific data is over – for now.

Despite a last-roll-of-the-dice attempt to nudge the Philae lander into better sunlight, which might have recharged its batteries, the end came when contact was lost at 00.36 GMT on Saturday morning.

Engineers had warned earlier in the day that the lander, which is the size of a washing machine, may not have had enough power to make contact at all.

There was still a tense wait at the European Space Agency’s (ESA)operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany, as Philae’s signal was not acquired until 02.19 GMT, more than an hour later than expected, raising hopes that the lander may have moved into a sunnier spot.

Data acquired during the night showed that Philae had moved a tiny bit, but not enough to immediately save the mission.

Philae’s first touchdown seen by Rosetta’s NavCam

Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft has discovered something surprising about the comet it’s orbiting: it makes an eerie noise.

The European Space Agency robot’s instruments have detected a low-frequency, irregular sound emitted by oscillations in the comet’s magnetic field. Researchers have boosted the sound to within human hearing range and are calling it a “song.”

The comet’s song can be heard in a clip posted online. The song changes rhythm and pace, going from what sounds like a gurgle, to a series of clicks, to the sound of wind blowing and back to more clicks that constantly change pitch.

The ESA said it first detected the sounds in August, when the Rosetta orbiter drew within 100 kilometres of the comet, dubbed Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It picked up the sound during a magnetometer experiment.

Scientists say they don’t know the “precise physical mechanism” behind the sound, but it appears to be caused by particles released by the comet becoming charged as they move out into space.

The comet’s song is being sung at 40 to 50 millihertz, well below the threshold of human hearing.

On Wednesday, the Rosetta orbiter’s Philae lander touched down on the surface of the comet, where it will gather data about the makeup of the giant space rock over the coming days.

The Rosetta orbiter is expected to stay with the comet for years, gathering data that scientists hope will provide clues to the origins of life on Earth.

The comet is hurtling through space at about 66,000 kilometres per hour, about 500 million kilometres from Earth.


UPDATE: Thanks to Herbert for this – I was unaware of Israel’s significant part in this:

There is a strong Israeli connection to the remarkable space-ship landing on a comet: It was a project conceived by Professor Bar Nun of Tel Aviv University some 25 years ago. Execution of the comet-space-ship landing was the culmination of a 10-year-project by space scientists at Tel Aviv University along with a group of European space scientists: …. more here.



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