Mars rover captures first sound of dust devil on Red Planet

A NASA rover has recorded the sound of a red dust devil whizzing past Mars.

The 10-second audio, the first of its kind, was released on Tuesday and captures not only bursts of rumble of up to 25mph, but also the slamming of hundreds of dust particles against the Perseverance rover.

It sounds like dust devils on Earth – albeit quieter since Mars’ thin atmosphere produces quieter sounds and less powerful wind, the researchers say.

The dust devil passed quickly on Perseverance last year, hence the short duration of the audio, said Naomi Murdoch of the University of Toulouse, lead author of the study which appeared in Nature Communications.

At the same time, the parked rover’s navigation camera captured images, while its weather monitoring instrument collected data.

“He was caught in the act by Persy,” said co-author German Martinez of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

Photographed for decades on Mars but never heard of until now, dust devils are common on the Red Planet.

This one was about average: at least 400 feet high and 80 feet wide, traveling at five meters per second.

The microphone picked up 308 pulses of dust as the dust devil passed by, said Ms Murdoch, who helped build it.

Given that the rover’s SuperCam microphone is on for less than three minutes every few days, she said it was “definitely lucky” that the dust devil appeared on September 27, 2021.

She estimates that there was only a 1 in 200 chance of capturing the dust devil’s audio.

Of the 84 minutes collected during the rover’s first year, there is “only one dust record”, she wrote in an email from France.

The same microphone on Perseverance’s mast provided the first sounds from Mars – namely the Martian wind – shortly after the rover landed in February 2021.

It followed with audio of the rolling rover and its companion helicopter, the little Ingenuity, flying nearby, along with the crackle of the rover’s zapping lasers – the main reason for the microphone.

These records allow scientists to study Martian wind, atmospheric turbulence and now dust movement like never before, Ms Murdoch said.

The results “demonstrate how valuable acoustic data can be in space exploration.”

Searching for rocks that may contain signs of ancient microbial life, Perseverance has collected 18 samples so far from Jezero Crater, once the scene of a river delta.

NASA plans to return these samples to Earth within a decade.

Ingenuity recorded 36 flights, the longest lasting almost three minutes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *