Mercury can sing: Listen to first sounds coming from the closest planet to Sun

As the BepiColombo spacecraft swooped previous Mercury earlier this month, it was not simply an abnormal flyby for a spacecraft round a planet, it kickstarted the science to examine the closest planet to the Sun. During the first flyby on October 1, the spacecraft sampled the magnetic and particle surroundings round Mercury whereas flying as shut as 199 kilometres to the planet feeling its intense gravitational pull.

Engineers have now launched magnetic and accelerometer information by changing them into sound, giving us the first audio emanating from the planet. The audio reveals the sound of large photo voltaic winds bombarding a planet shut to the Sun, the flexing of the spacecraft because it responded to the change in temperature because it flew from the evening to dayside of the planet, and the sound of a science instrument rotating to its park position.

“It may have been a fleeting flyby, but for some of BepiColombo’s instruments, it marked the beginning of their science data collection, and a chance to really start preparing for the main mission,” Johannes Benkhoff, ESA’s BepiColombo project scientist said in a statement.


The spacecraft collected data using its ultraviolet spectrometer for an hour during the closest approach, focusing on the elements present in the planet’s extremely low-density atmosphere that is generated either from the solar wind or from the planet’s surface. Analysis of data shows a high of hydrogen and calcium as BepiColombo exited the shadow of Mercury.

The European Space Agency said that once in orbit around Mercury, the spectrometer will characterise its’s exosphere composition and dynamics in great detail, watching how it changes with location and time. Apart from the spectrometer, during the flyby, the Mercury Gamma-ray and Neutron Spectrometer (MGNS) was also operating, which detected bright fluxes of neutron and gamma rays produced by the interaction of galactic cosmic rays with the uppermost surface layers of Mercury.

The spacecraft also recorded details of the solar wind and magnetic field around the planet collecting new data from the southern hemisphere of the planet. “It’s like having just explored North America and seeing South America through binoculars, but unfortunately having to abort the expedition. As a researcher, you’re naturally curious and desperate to go back,” Daniel Heyner, who’s main the MPO magnetometer researcher group stated.


Engineers converted the data gathered by the spacecraft into audio, capturing the changing intensity of the magnetic field and solar wind, including the moment the spacecraft crossed the magnetosheath ­ the highly turbulent boundary region between the solar wind and the magnetosphere around the planet.

BepiColombo is on a seven-year journey to Mercury. (Photo: ESA)

“Once in Mercury orbit, complementary magnetic area measurements made by each ESA’s MPO and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (often called Mio) will lead to an in depth evaluation of the planet’s magnetic area and its supply, so as to higher perceive the origin, evolution and present state of the planet’s inside,” ESA said in a release.

The sound also contains the intense accelerations measured by the spacecraft as it experienced the extreme gravitational pull of the planet during the flyby.

“On the acceleration plots that were appearing on our screens, we could see the tidal effects of Mercury on the BepiColombo structure, the drop of the solar radiation pressure during the transit in the shadow of the planet, and the movement of the centre of mass of the spacecraft due to flexing of the large solar arrays,” says Carmelo Magnafico of the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics.


Launched in October 2018, BepiColombo is on a seven-year trip to Mercury. To complete its journey, the spacecraft needs nine ‘planetary gravity assists’ that would allow it to adjust its course on the way to the innermost planet of the solar system.

The first of these ‘planetary gravity assists’ was recorded around Earth in April of this year while the second, around Venus, took place in October 2020. Its third ‘planetary gravity help’ was additionally round Venus earlier this 12 months, as the remaining six will probably be round Mercury itself.

Once the BepiColombo spacecraft reaches Mercury’s orbit, it would break up in two. This will lead to the launch of a European orbiter ‘Bepi’. The orbiter will enter Mercury’s interior orbit whereas the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s ‘Mio’ will proceed to collect information from a distance.

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