Hear the sound of dust swirling across Mars: ScienceAlert

The Martian soundscape can be so eerily alien as one might expect to hear in another world. The boom of the occasional meteor impactsthe groan of the trembling earththe whisper of a endless wind.

We now have a front row seat to the approach and departure of a roaring fiend as it roams the surface, helping drive the cycle of dust through the atmosphere and around the little rust-stained world.

Perseverance was the first rover to reach the surface of Mars with a working microphone attached, and the instrument has been put to good use since the rover landed in February 2021. The microphone is part of a suite of recording tools on the rover known as the super camera.

It is thanks to this innovative piece of technology that we can listen for the first time what a miniature dust whirlwind on another planet sounds like. It’s haunting and brief and quite fantastic at the same time.

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“We can learn a lot more using sound than with some of the other tools,” says planetary scientist Roger Wiens from Purdue University in Indiana.

“They take readings at regular intervals.”

“The microphone allows us to sample, not exactly at the speed of sound, but almost 100,000 times per second. It helps us get a better idea of ​​what Mars is like.”

Perseverance’s microphone actually only records for three minutes a day: this is the first time it’s been on when a dust eddy has passed, even though other instruments have recorded evidence of nearly 100 other eddies. where is the rover based in Jezero Crater.

The dust eddy passed over the rover in 27 September 2021: the 215th Martian day (or sol) of its mission. Scientists estimate the size of the dust storm to be about 25 meters (just over 80 feet) wide, while it would have been at least 118 meters (387 feet) tall.

By combining photographs with wind, pressure, temperature and dust readings, Perseverance was also able to track the speed of the mini Martian tornado in its path, which reached as far as 19 kilometers (12 miles). per hour.

six black and white horizontal landscape images with purple and yellow reflections of the dust devil approach
The rover’s navigation camera observations of the dust devil encounter. (Murdoch et al., nature communications, 2022)

“This chance encounter with dust storms demonstrates the potential of acoustic data to resolve the fast-wind structure of the Martian atmosphere,” Wiens and colleagues. write on your paper.

The surrounding winds would have been faster, and in the recording, you can hear the silence reflecting the calm eye of this particular small storm. Part of what makes the new information valuable is how it compares to events like this on Earth.

“The wind is fast, around 25 miles per hour, but about what you’d see in a dust devil on Earth.” says vienna. “The difference is that the air pressure on Mars is much lower than the winds, although just as fast, they push with about 1 percent of the pressure that the same wind speed would have on Earth.”

“Not a powerful wind, but clear enough to lift sand particles into the air to form a dust storm.”

All the data we currently have collecting on mars it is useful for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it gives us a better idea of ​​how the planet evolved, which in turn gives scientists clues about how other planets in the Universe might be evolving as well.

Those other planets include Earth, and since Mars is our closest planetary neighbor, our stories are closely intertwined. Comparing Earth and Mars gives us a better idea of ​​the past and future of both planets.

There is also humanity’s ambition that one day step on mars. Recordings like this hint at the kind of conditions we can expect and how those conditions can be protected or used, for example, the way wind can naturally clean solar panels.

“Just like Earth, there is a different climate in different areas of Mars.” says vienna. “Using all of our instruments and tools, especially the microphone, helps us get a concrete idea of ​​what it would be like to be on Mars.”

The research has been published in nature communications.

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