NASA's Perseverance Rover records the rumble of 'Martian dust devil'
NASA's Perseverance Rover has captured what a 'dust devil' on Mars sounds like, for the first time ever. Using the onboard SuperCam microphone, the six-wheeled robotic explorer captured this sound during the 215th Martian day of the mission, on September 27, 2021. The 'dust devil' is estimated to be 82 feet wide, and at least 387 feet tall, with a velocity of 19km/h.
Why does this story matter?
- Although Martian dust storms have been photographed, they have never been heard until now. Also, the Perseverance is the first to pick up a Martian regolith.
- NASA and ESA intend on bringing back the collected Martian samples to Earth for in-depth analysis by 2030.
- The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA's Moon to Mars exploration approach, which also includes the Artemis expeditions.
Listen to the sound of the Martian dust devil
The Martian dust devil sounds similar to those on Earth
Lead author of the study, Naomi Murdoch, said that there was only a 1-in-200 chance of capturing dust-devil audio. There's "only one dust devil recording" out of the 84 minutes of audio collected by the rover in its first year, she added. According to the researchers, the Martian dust devil sounds similar to those on Earth but appears quieter because of Mars' thin atmosphere.
The SuperCam microphone is turned on for about three minutes
The rover's SuperCam microphone is turned on for around three minutes every few days and it was pure chance that the dust devil was captured. The Martian dust devil was quick to pass by, hence the short audio clip, and the rover accumulated 308 dust pings as it gushed past. The obtained results "demonstrate just how valuable acoustic data can be in space exploration."
Instruments aboard Perseverance have helped estimate the dust devil's dimensions
At the same time that the microphone on the rover's SuperCam recorded the dust devil, its left navigation camera and weather sensors (measuring wind, pressure, temperature, and dust) were also on. This allowed scientists to combine sound, image, and atmospheric data to model the dust devil's dimensions. The Curiosity Mars Rover, along with Perseverance, is on a routine lookout for such dusty storms.
Lesser known facts about Perseverance Rover's SuperCam
The SuperCam microphone recorded the first-ever sounds on Mars, comprising wind, dust devils, rover noises, and laser zaps. It can identify the chemical and mineral makeup of Martian regions as small as a pencil point, from a distance of more than 20 feet. It is the improved version of the ChemCam on the Curiosity Mars Rover and can also take colored pictures.