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The Mars rover has recorded the sounds of dust devils for the first time

The Mars rover has recorded the sounds of dust devils for the first time

According to a recent study, the Mars rover Perseverance recorded the sounds of a dust devil for the first time as a tornado swept across its surface.

“We hit the bull’s-eye,” said Naomi Murdoch, a planetary scientist at France’s Isae-Supaero Institute for Space Research and lead author of the study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.

Researchers hope the recording will give a better understanding of the Red Planet’s weather and climate — including how its barren surface and thin atmosphere might one day support life.

Ephemeral swirls filled with dust

Dust devils are short-lived eddies of dust-laden air that are common on Mars. They arise as a result of large differences between soil and air temperatures. They are spotted particularly frequently at Jezero Crater, where the “Perseverance” rover, the size of an off-road vehicle, has been in use since February 2021. However, it has not yet been able to record a vertebra.

But this time, the rover’s SuperCam microphone picked up muffled dust hums for the first time. Murdoch said, “We hear the wind that accompanies the dust devil the moment he arrives – and then we hear nothing because we are right in the middle of his eye.” Then the sound returns when the microphone passes the second wall of the dust devil. Murdoch said the sounds produced by the dust impact now allow researchers to study the structure and behavior of the tornado.

Recording can solve the mystery

The recording could also help solve a puzzle that has long puzzled scientists: In some places on Mars, “hurricanes pass by and suck in dust while cleaning the rover’s solar panels.” However, tornadoes pass through other regions without raising much dust. “They just move the air,” Murdoch said, and the researchers couldn’t explain why.

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Research interactions between soil and atmosphere

Analysis of Martian dust now makes it possible to explore interactions between the planet’s soil and the planet’s very thin atmosphere, said researcher and co-author Sylvester Morris. According to him, billions of years ago the atmosphere was much thicker – a prerequisite for the existence of vital water.

“One might think that studying the Martian climate today has nothing to do with looking for traces of life from billions of years ago,” he said. But everything is “part of a whole”. Because the history of Mars is a history of climate extremes – from a wet, hot planet to one that’s completely dry and cold.