When the 18-meter (390-foot) dust devil passed over the Perseverance rover, the microphone was on.
NASA can now say what the sound of a dust devil on Mars is. When a tower of red dust whirling overhead recorded the noise, a NASA rover accidentally turned on its microphone.
There are rumbling gusts of up to 40 kilometers per hour (25 miles per hour) and the pinging of hundreds of dust particles against the Perseverance rover for about ten seconds. Tuesday saw the first audio released by scientists.
When the rover’s microphone picked up the dust devil overhead, lead researcher Naomi Murdoch of the University of Toulouse told AFP, “We hit the jackpot.”
According to the researchers, it sounded strikingly similar to dust devils on Earth, albeit quieter due to Mars’ thin atmosphere’s muted sounds and less forceful wind.
Murdoch stated that because the dust devil vanished quickly last year, the audio was cut short. The weather-monitoring instrument on the parked rover also took pictures and recorded data at the same time.
According to co-author German Martinez of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, “It was fully caught red-handed by Persy.”
Dust devils are common on Mars, especially in the Jezero crater, where the Perseverance rover has been operating since February 2021, despite being photographed for decades but never heard of before. However, it had never been able to record audio of them before.
On September 27, 2021, by chance, a dust devil 118 meters (390 feet) high and 25 meters wide traveled five meters (16 feet) per second directly over the rove.
Murdoch stated that the dust devil was speeding by and the microphone picked up 308 dust pings.
Murdoch stated that the dust devil’s appearance was “definitely luck” given that the rover’s SuperCam microphone was turned on for less than three minutes every few days. She estimated that recording dust-devil audio was only one in 200 chances.
In an email from France, she informed the AP that there was “only one dust devil recording” out of the 84 minutes collected in its first year.
Murdoch, a planetary researcher at the ISAE-SUPAERO space research institute in France, where the SuperCam’s microphone was designed, stated, “We hear the wind associated with the dust devil, the moment it arrives, then nothing because we are in the eye of the vortex.”
She added that after that, the sound would come back “when the microphone passes through the second wall” of the dust devil.
She stated that the dust’s impact produced “tac tac tac” sounds, which will enable researchers to count the number of particles in the whirlwind to study its structure and behavior.
It could likewise assist with tackling a secret that has confounded researchers. Murdoch stated that “whirlwinds pass by by sucking up dust, cleaning the solar panels of rovers along the way” in some regions of Mars.
According to Maurice, who also works on the SuperCam, the atmosphere was much thicker billions of years ago, which made it possible for liquid water that could sustain life to exist.
He stated, “You might think that studying the climate on Mars today is unrelated to looking for signs of life from billions of years ago.”
“But it’s all a part of a bigger picture because Mars’s history is one of extreme climate change, going from a hot, humid planet to a cold, dry one.”
At Jezero Crater, which was once the site of a river delta, Perseverance has collected 18 samples in its search for rocks that might contain evidence of ancient microbial life. In ten years, NASA intends to bring these samples back to Earth. 36 flights have been made by the helicopter Ingenuity, the longest of which lasted almost three minutes.