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While investigating the site of an ancient lake on Mars, a towering dust storm passed over the Perseverance rover — and the rover recorded the first sounds of this Martian dust devil. using its microphone.
Dust devils or dust vortices are common on Mars and are part of the Red Planet’s weather patterns.
Other missions collected images, weather data and dust measurements of these events, and NASA’s Inside Lander even recorded seismic and magnetic signals produced by dust devils. But sound is the missing element – until now.
When the Perseverance rover lands on Mars in February 2021, it will be the first mission to carry microphones on its mission to the Red Planet.
The robotic explorer’s supercam microphone was activated and recorded when a dust devil passed directly over the rover on September 27, 2021, according to a new study published in the journal Tuesday. Natural communication.
During the 11-second clip captured by the microphone, there are two periods of low-frequency wind as the dust devil’s leading and trailing walls pass over the rover, said lead study author Dr. Naomi Murdoch. Aeronautics and Space Agency.
Murdoch said that between the walls of the hurricane was a quiet period when the rover was in the eye of the vortex.
Cracks and hisses are heard during the event, determined to be dust particles hitting the rover.
The researchers were able to count the particles in the dust devil when it hit the rover, leading to an entirely new type of measurement on the Red Planet, Murdoch said. This is the first time an instrument has measured dust on Mars.
Images and other data sent back by the rover confirmed what happened. When the researchers pieced together all the elements collected by the rover, they determined that the dust devil reached 387 feet (118 meters) tall and 82 feet (25 meters) wide — 10 times larger than the rover. It looks like a large tornado, about the average size of Martian dust devils, Murdoch said.
The researchers were surprised to find that the dust was concentrated inside the dust devil, rather than being carried into the outer walls – because the dust devil may have been in the process of forming as it moved on the Perseverance.
Dust devils act as indicators of atmospheric turbulence on Mars and play an important role in the Martian dust cycle.
Learning more about how dust rises and moves on the Red Planet – a key feature of its weather and climate – will help scientists better understand the formation and evolution of dust storms.
What is a dust storm that surrounds a planet? Opportunity completed the rover’s 15-year mission In 2018.
“Global dust storms are important for understanding Martian climate,” Murdoch said. “Acoustic measurements of dust impacts and dust lifting will improve our understanding of dust devils and help improve Martian climate models. Understanding dust lifting due to potential damage to hardware is also important for space missions.”
Persistence’s wind sensors have already been damaged by high-altitude dust particles carried by the wind or dust devils, Murdoch said.
Dust devils have a reputation for being both beneficial and harmful on Mars.
The The Inside Lander’s mission is expected to end this month After four years of studying earthquakes and other phenomena on the Red Planet. Layers of dust have collected on its solar panels, preventing the spacecraft from gathering enough power to continue operating its instruments.
Dust devils are frequent in Jezero Crater, where the Perseverance landed, but they seem to be absent from Insight’s home on the flat plains of Elysium Planitia—and researchers aren’t sure why.
“In the case of InSight, dust has settled on the solar panels from the atmosphere. However, since InSight has no eddies capable of lifting the dust, hurricanes cannot ‘clean’ the solar panels.
Other Mars missions actually benefit from regular cleaning by dust devils, which act like vacuum cleaners for dust collected on the solar-powered Spirit and Opportunity rovers, giving them longer-than-expected lifespans.
Higher Institute of Aeronautics and Space, University of Toulouse ISAE-SUPAERO, created the microphone that sits in persistence. Every month, Murdoch and his team collect Each of the eight recordings lasts 167 seconds.
“We estimate that a microphone observation in the middle of the day (the time of day when dust devil activity is most active) has only a 1 in 200 chance of recording a dust devil like the one we encountered,” Murdoch said. “We certainly got lucky, but we carefully targeted the instrumental observations to maximize the chances of success.”
More microphone recordings might capture additional dust devils, and Murdoch’s team is using the recordings to measure atmospheric turbulence to determine its range on Mars.
The SuperCam microphone was originally added to the rover job to listen to rocks as instruments to determine their properties, but its acoustic data also sheds light on the Red Planet’s atmospheric science potential, Murdoch said.
“All these measurements and analyzes highlight how valuable acoustic data is in planetary exploration. So, in parallel, at ISAE-SUPAERO, we are developing next-generation acoustic sensors that will be sent to other planetary bodies with atmospheres in the future,” he said.