Scientists Can’t Explain Why Comet is ‘Singing’

Courtesy of ESA
Courtesy of ESA

Before the successful landing of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko yesterday afternoon, scientists discovered something they don’t know how to explain. The comet is, for some reason, emitting music into space. The European Space Agency (ESA) released a SoundCloud track of its song, which users are enthusiastically comparing to both Dubstep and “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

The ESA’s mission has placed five instruments in the Rosetta Plasma Consortium (RPC) which measure the plasma environment surrounding the comet. These instruments were responsible for uncovering the comet’s ‘song,’ which is reportedly taking shape through oscillations in its surrounding magnetic field.

According to the ESA, the music was first heard clearly by the magnetometer experiment (RPC-Mag) in August. As they explained on thier SoundCloud, the music was ‘sung’ into space at 40-50 millihertz. Since this decibel is far below the level of human hearing, which falls between 20 Hz and 20kHz, the frequencies were increased by a factor of 10,000 to make the track audible. The RPC-Mag data sonification was compiled by German composer Manuel Senfft.

“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,” said Karl-Heinz Glaßmeier, head of Space Physics and Space Sensorics at the Germany’s Technische Universität Braunschweig.

Their current theory is that the comet releases neutral particles that collide with other high-energy particles in space, a process called ionization. These constant collisions are believed to be the cause of the unique sounds, though “the precise physical mechanism behind the oscillations remains a mystery.”

The comments on the SoundCloud track range from “Wait for the drop” and “Yo Skrill drop it hard” to theories of an alien rave party on the other side of the comet. Others compare the comet’s sound to musicians like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Björk, Boris Brejcha, Martin Garrix, and Richie Hawtin.

Some listeners say they have made the song their ringtone, and new tracks “ft. Singing Comet” are already in the works. Of course, there is already an EDM remix of the ESA’s recording, created by a DJ and Producer from Finland known as ReYo. You can listen to it here.