Create your own celestial music with Rosetta comet’s ‘vocals’

28 Nov 2014

This mosaic comprises four individual NAVCAM images taken from 31.8 km from the centre of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 4 November 2014. Image via ESA

The next chart hit could potentially have a comet as its backing vocals after the European Space Agency (ESA) made comet 67P’s ‘vocals’ available under the creative commons licence.

As the Rosetta spacecraft drew within a range of 100 km to comet 67P earlier this month, ESA researchers were able to record the comet ‘singing’ after its sensors picked up that a large quantity of material and gases were being emitted from the giant piece of space debris.

The problem for humans, however, was that its singing was only detectable at an audio frequency of between 40-50 mHz, while our ears can only pick up frequencies of 20 Hz-20 kHz.

That is why with the help of a considerable amount of audio manipulation, the ESA was able to magnify the sound about 1,000 times to create a series of clicks.

Speaking at the time of the first detection of the signal, Karl-Heinz Glassmeier, head of Space Physics and Space Sensorics at the Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany, said, “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.”

Now, for absolutely no royalty fees, musicians can add the comet’s ‘vocals’ to their music to create their own tracks, although it will surely be limited to electronic music given the sound the comet makes.

This newly released audio is slightly different to the original one released after it was first magnified, as this was edited with the help of a sound artist known as Tagirijus.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic